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Veteran Conductor Riccardo Muti to Undergo Surgery After Fall

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Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti sustained "multiple facial and jaw fractures" last week in a fall from the podium.

He will undergo surgery today at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to an official statement from Deborah Rutter, president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. The statement currently appears on both Muti's Web site and that of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

"Maestro Muti also continues to undergo tests to assess the underlying cause of the fall," the statement reads. "Updates on Maestro Muti’s condition will follow the surgery."

"There's a lot of waiting and seeing right now," said Chicago Symphony Orchestra's director of public relations Rachelle Roe.

The Orchestra has found replacement conductors, including Leonard Slatkin and Sakari Oramo, for Muti's upcoming performances. But the Italian maestro remains on the calendar for performances later in February of Stravinsky's Suite from The Fairy's Kiss, Varèse's Arcana and Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2. "So far, that's true," said Roe of the current schedule arrangement.

Muti has been beset with health problems across the current season. This past fall, the 69-year-old conductor withdrew from his fall residency in Chicago, following stomach ailments. At that time, Muti flew to Italy to undergo a battery of tests conducted by "my own Italian doctors," he reportedly told Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

The current season marks the first in Muti's five-year-long contract with the Chicago Symphony. Muti's predecessor, Daniel Barenboim, retired from the post in 2006. Muti led La Scala, the celebrated Milan opera house, for nearly two decades before stepping down in 2005 following a widely-publicized dispute between musicians and other workers at the house. Muti first performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in 1973.

Here in New York, Muti has been heavily courted by the New York Philharmonic. The conductor turned down the Phil directorship in 2000, but his name again circulated in the recent run-up to Lorin Maazel's replacement. Alan Gilbert has held the post of the New York Philharmonic music director since 2009, the first native New Yorker to do so.

Last season, Muti made his long-awaited Metropolitan Opera debut conducting Attila in the Verdi opera's Met premiere. During final rehearsals, students from some of the most prominent music schools in the U.S. were permitted to sit in as Muti led the Met orchestra in one of the house's underground "C-Level" rehearsal rooms.

“This experience, as we say in my language, is very ‘knee to knee’,” Serbian-born Vladimir Kulenovic, a student at the Juilliard School, said of witnessing the rehearsal. “This means it’s very direct, a very intense communication, the way a grandfather speaks to a child. You can see it in Muti’s face. The way he conducts will stay in your memory, your bone marrow.”