Muti was born in Naples.
In 1967, he won the Cantelli Prize for young conductors.
From 1968 to 1980 he was Principal Director and Musical Director of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
From 1980 to 1992 he was Musical Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which he has led on several tours.
In 1979 he was nominated their Principal Director, and in 1982 "Conductor Laureate". In 1987 Riccardo Muti was nominated Principal Director of the Scala Philharmonic Orchestra, with which in 1988 he received the Viotti d'Oro and with which he went on tour in Italy and in Europe.
He is a regular guest of the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic. In 1996 Muti conducted the latter at the closing of the Viennese Festival Week, in a tour in the Far East (Japan, Korea, Hong Kong) and in Germany as well as at the Vienna New Year's Concert in 1993, 1997, 2000 and 2004.
Since 1971 he has been a regular participant of the Salzburg Festival, conducting operas and concerts, where he is particularly known for his Mozart opera performances.
Apart from La Scala, Muti has conducted operatic productions in Philadelphia, Munich, Vienna and London, and at the Ravenna Festival.