Founded by Riccardo Muti in 2004, the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra was named after one of the finest composers of all times, born in Italy but active all over Europe. This choice underlines the Orchestra’s vocation, combining a strong Italian identity with a natural inclination towards a European vision of music and culture. The Youth Orchestra, a privileged link between the conservatoires and the professional world, set up its residence in Piacenza, and elected the Ravenna Festival as its summer home. The young instrumentalists of the Cherubini Youth Orchestra are all under 30, and come from all over Italy. They were selected through audition by a committee of top musicians from prestigious European orchestras, headed by Riccardo Muti himself. Dynamism and continuous renewal are a distinctive feature of the Orchestra, and it is in this perspective that members are only appointed for a period of three years, after which they may start collaboration with a major professional orchestra.
In recent years, under the baton of Riccardo Muti, the Orchestra has tackled a repertoire ranging from baroque to XX century music, alternating concerts in many Italian cities to important European and world tours in the theatres of Vienna, Paris, Moscow, Salzburg, Cologne, St. Petersburg, Madrid, Barcelona, Lugano, Muscat, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Buenos Aires, and Tokyo. The début of Cimarosa’s Il ritorno di Don Calandrino at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival (2007) marked the first step of a five-year project undertaken by the prestigious Austrian event and the Ravenna Festival with a view to re-discovering and reviving the legacy of the Neapolitan School of music of the XVIII century. The Cherubini Youth Orchestra was the protagonist of this project as orchestra-in-residence.
The Orchestra returned to Salzburg in 2015, the only Italian ensemble invited to the prestigious Summer Festival. On this occasion, it performed Ernani under the baton of Riccardo Muti, who had already conducted it in 2008 in a memorable concert in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, Vienna. Just a handful few months before, the ensemble had been awarded the prestigious Abbiati Prize 2008 as the Best musical venture for “the outstanding achievements that made [the Cherubini Youth Orchestra] an excellent ensemble, appreciated at home and abroad”.
Besides an intense activity under its founder’s baton, the Orchestra has extensively collaborated with such artists as Claudio Abbado, John Axelrod, Rudolf Barshai, Michele Campanella, James Conlon, Dennis Russel Davies, Gérard Depardieu, Kevin Farrell, Patrick Fournillier, Herbie Hancock, Leonidas Kavakos, Lang Lang, Ute Lemper, Alexander Lonquich, Wayne Marshall, Kurt Masur, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Kent Nagano, Krzysztof Penderecki, Donato Renzetti, Vadim Repin, Giovanni Sollima, Yuri Temirkanov, Alexander Toradze, and Pinchas Zukerman.
The Orchestra had a challenging and unquestionably important role in the Ravenna Festival’s project of the “trilogies”, which saw the orchestra star in the celebrations for Verdi’s bicentenary under the baton of Nicola Paszkowski: on these occasions, the Orchestra performed 6 of Verdi’s operas, all staged at the Alighieri Theatre. In 2012, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata were performed on the same stage on three consecutive days; in 2013 the “Shakespearean Trilogy” followed, featuring Macbeth, Otello and Falstaff. While in 2017 Vladimir Ovodok led the Cherubini in Cavalleria rusticana, Pagliacci, and Tosca, in 2018 the Orchestra undertook a new Verdi-adventure, led by Alessandro Benigni in Nabucco, Hossein Pishkar in Rigoletto, and Nicola Paszkowski in Otello. More recently, the Orchestra has regularly tackled the operatic repertoire in several co-productions of the Alighieri Theatre, Ravenna, and some major Italian traditional theatres. From 2015 to 2017, the Cherubini also featured at the Spoleto Festival with the “Mozart-Da Ponte trilogy” conducted by James Conlon.
The Orchestra’s ties with Riccardo Muti made it a perfect match for the Italian Opera Academy for young conductors and répétiteurs, that the Maestro started in 2015: the first year the Cherubini tackled Falstaff, in the following years the attention was focused on Traviata, Aida, and Macbeth.
At the Ravenna Festival, the Orchestra’s summer residence, the Cherubini regularly stars as the protagonist of new productions, concerts, and also the “Roads of Friendship” project, which has taken it to a number of destinations such as Nairobi, Redipuglia, Tokyo, Tehran, Kiev, Athens, Paestum and, in 2021, the concert once again conducted by Riccardo Muti, was staged in Erevan.
In 2020, within the Ravenna Festival, the Cherubini took centre stage for Italy’s return to live music after the Covid-10 pandemic lockdown; the opening concert with an audience, led by Muti in the Rocca Brancaleone, was also the first streamed performance for the Orchestra. Following the second lockdown and the interruption of events with an audience, the Cherubini Orchestra and Muti performed in two concerts, streamed in November from the Alighieri Theatre – the events were streamed also on the websites of El País, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, and the Spring Festival di Tokyo – and, in March 2021, in a streamed Italian tour in Bergamo (Donizetti Theatre), Naples (Mercadante Theatre), and Palermo (Massimo Theatre).
The management of the Orchestra is entrusted to the Cherubini Foundation, jointly established by the municipalities of Piacenza and Ravenna and Ravenna Manifestazioni Foundation. The Orchestra’s activity is supported by the Ministry for Arts and Culture.