Maestro Riccardo Muti Cracks Baton Over Shteir's Harsh Review of Chicago

By Ted Cox on May 10, 2013 12:49pm 

 CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti came to the defense of his adopted city against attacks by New York Times book critic Rachel Shteir.
CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti came to the defense of his adopted city against attacks by New York Times book critic Rachel Shteir.
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Hiroyuki Ito, Getty Images/DePaul University/DNAinfo

CHICAGO — Chicago critic Rachel Shteir is hearing it from the maestro.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Director Riccardo Muti came to the defense of his adopted city in a letter to The New York Times Book Review to be published Sunday.

In the letter, which has already posted online, Muti writes: "I strongly disagree with the negative portrayal of a city I have come to love. As a European, I can confirm the deep respect that Chicago has throughout Europe as one of the great symbols of the United States.

"Chicago is a beautiful city with many resources, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the best orchestras anywhere in the world."

Shteir, a DePaul University theater professor and author of the books "Gypsy: The Art of the Tease," "Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show" and "The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting," raised hackles across Chicago two weeks ago with her Book Review cover article, "Chicago Manuals," which used a review on three Chicago books to take pot shots at the city for its "bloviating" swagger and self-importance.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined in the chorus opposed to Shteir's criticism.

Muti, who joined the CSO as music director three years ago, also rose to the city's defense, writing: "Chicago’s greatest resource is its wonderful people, who do not see music merely as an entertainment but also as cultural enrichment. This is a city rich in neighborhoods with great diversity that have been nothing but incredibly responsive to our attempts to bring music to those who may not or cannot come to us in the concert hall, whether because of cost or other barriers."

Chicago author Kelly O'Connor McNees added: "A blunter sort of person might invite Shteir to take a long walk off a short pier — our city has many lovely piers — but a Chicagoan never would."

Perhaps Ben Kessler put it best, however, with the musical Chicago question: "Come on, Rachel Shteir, baby don’t you wanna go?"

 

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