MILAN - Riccardo Muti has resigned as the musical director of Milan's La Scala after his 19-year reign at the opera house dissolved into a bitter battle for power, mutiny in the musical ranks and cancelled performances.
Muti, hailed as one of the world's great conductors but criticized for running La Scala as his own private fiefdom and holding back innovation, said on Saturday he had no choice but to resign.
"Despite the great esteem the board of directors has for me, the theatrical show of hostility from people I have worked with for nearly 20 years has made it utterly impossible to continue our relationship, which has to be based on harmony and trust," he said in a statement.
"Making music together is not just a team effort. It requires us to respect each other, to share our passion and to understand each other -- feelings I thought underpinned these 20 years of work at La Scala," Muti added.
The famously hot-tempered conductor ruled La Scala with an iron baton, insisting on the theatrical integrity of every production and resisting moves by the former administrator to put on more widely popular pieces like 20th century musicals.
La Scala, which launched the careers of great musicians from Giuseppe Verdi to Maria Callas, almost ground to a halt because of the battle between Muti and administrator Carlo Fontana. Earlier this year, Fontana was sacked.
But behind that victory lay Muti's defeat.
Hundreds of workers from clarinet players to costume designers criticized his excessive power and turned against him, striking on the first night of every production, refusing to rehearse with him and forcing two operas to be cancelled.