The fact that 2013 is the Verdi bicentennial makes it all the more fitting that Riccardo Muti won this year’s Premio Giustiniano, Ravenna’s top prize for arts and culture. Muti is arguably the most famous contemporary Italian conductor, and has always considered Verdi a muse and an inspiration, recently releasing a book about him. Muti has been the music director for La Scala in Milan, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He is also a regular guest conductor for the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Vienna Philharmonic, and has led opera festivals in Salzburg, Ravenna, Rome, London, and Munich. He is known and loved the world over for his fresh interpretations and his fierce passion for Italian music and opera.
One of the main reasons given why Muti was chosen for this prize was for his “beautiful intuition” in creating the Luigi Cherubini youth orchestra in 2004, located in Ravenna. This orchestra, which Muti stills leads, brings together youth musicians from all over Italy in a prestigious summer residency setting where they can expand their love of music and fine arts. Over 600 people apply each year.
The committee of the Premio Giustiniano also gave a special mention to IAF pianist Nazzareno Carusi. A native of the Abruzzo region, Carusi has been performing publically since he was 10 years old. He is the winner of several important awards such as the Weissenberg Preis in Switzerland and the NFMC Competition in Buffalo, New York, but feels that his true career was launched with an IAF performance in Carnegie Hall. He said “Exactly 10 years ago, I first performed for you at Carnegie Hall. I will never forget those emotions and the sense of possibility that the Italian Academy Foundation gave me, changing the course of my career with this concert.” Since then the Italian national radio company RAI has called him “one of the biggest Italian musicians today,” and the Washington Post congratulated him for always providing “an evening of breathtaking artistry.”