Chapter 22 (Part 1) – An active year with John in New Rochelle

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Lincoln Center by night

I met John at a theater in Paris in January 1971. I have already told that story somewhere else, so I’ll only add that John was a physicist who was doing a three-year stint at Collège de France in Paris at that time. He had formerly worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, but when his first marriage ended in divorce, he applied for a couple of years’ research work at Collège de France.

Lucia at 2020 Bryn Mawr where we saw a lot of this wonderful kittie.

In 1964, when John was a graduate student at the Florida State University in Tallahassee, he was living in a room that had been converted from a garage. One stormy night there was a knock on the door and his Cajun friend was standing outside dripping wet in his long London Fog raincoat. He pulled out a little thing from a deep pocket and the ‘thing’ turned out to be the cutest little tabby kitten with a white spot under her chin and four white paws.

That got to be Lucia who became the mother of Brünhilde and Siegfried – later on when John was married to Linda. Susanna was their fourth cat who just wandered in one day at the house they rented on Long Island. She adopted them and became one of the group to make it a foursome.

Thus began John’s passion saga with cats. He has never since then lived without one or two,  except for his first year in France. I myself grew up with cats and dogs, and I am a total nut for animals of all kinds, but especially for cats and dogs. Already when I was a baby in Småland, we had a collie dog called Pojken, which simply means ‘the Boy’.

Before moving to Paris in the summer of 1969, John delivered three cats to his parents in Florida, after Linda had wantedto have Brünhilde. Later when John and I visited his parents in Orlando,  Florida, Lucia and I also became fast friends in no time. There is a picture of Lucia sleeping next to me on my pillow.

John was following in the footsteps of a friend and fellow physicist at Brookhaven, Wes, who later became a professor of physics at Nijmegen University in Holland and who has always remained a close friend of ours.

I first got to know him and his wife Patsy when we were driving my little Renault 4L from Sweden back to Paris in 1971. John had got to know my family and several of my friends, especially in Bergslagen, in central Sweden west of Stockholm, which is to me just about the most gorgeous region in Sweden. We retunred to  Bergslagen with friends in 1982, and more times. On our way back to Paris, we stopped by in Nijmegen to see Wes and Patsy, before they had even started a family and lived in an apartment. Patsy was the most wonderful cook (chef really) that I have ever known.

That little second-hand car served me well for the year I spent in Paris in 1970 – ’71. Also, since my English teaching job was at l’Université de Paris Sud in Orsay, it was really necessary for me to have a car. John worked in the center of Paris in rue des Ecoles and he did not need one. He walked to work in 15 minutes along the Boulevard Saint-Germain from the 6th to the 5th arrondissement.

When I first got acquainted with John’s studio in the 6th arrondissement, in rue des Saints-Pères, I was absolutely delighted to get to know adorable little Mélisande, just a few months old, named after the female lead of Debussy’s Opera, Pelléas et Mélisande. We were going to see that opera in Vienna with John’s parents, in the summer of 1972. The program said Pelleas und Melisande, and when John received the tickets, we were a bit worried that it was going to be all in German. We needn’t have worried though. It was sung in beautiful French.

Mélisande who had come over with us in the plane from Paris

Mélisande and I became close friends in no time, and of course when John and I traveled back to the United States at the end of the summer of 1972, Mélisande was with us on the plane. We had a fun time with our kitty in a cage on John’s lap and also sometimes out of the cage. On one of these occasions, Mélisande disappeared among the feet of our co-travelers, but with good help and a lot of laughing we managed to get her back to the lap where she belonged.

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The launching of Sputnik 1 in 1957 had shown the USA they were not the leaders they assumed they were in space exploration and science. In the resulting political panic, much government money was devoted to recruiting and training new young scientists.  John really was interested in science (His two major subjects were science and music.) and decided to major in physics at Duke, to eventually profit from the Sputnik fallout. When he got to graduate school, he started in nuclear physics but found it rather boring, so he switched to particle physics, at the real edge of fundamental knowledge. (He would later discover he preferred studying it to doing it, but that was later.) In fact, though, so many new scientists were created that there eventually turned out to be an excess of particle physicists.

However, during John’s last year in Paris – a year that was added to the two years stint he was counting on to begin with – he had been looking for jobs all over and there was not a single position in particle physics to even apply for. So for that one year in New Rochelle he ended up teaching general science as a permanent substitute in Rye High School. He was not very happy.

Pappa about 45 years old

When I look at all the programs I have amassed from that year, I get the impression that we must have gone to the City every weekend. But one weekend we didn’t go. We got down to the mailboxes and found a telegram from Sweden telling me that Pappa had just died. John right away suggested we go back and skip the City for that day. And so we did. We went back to the apartment and I had a good cry. My father was the most wonderful man I have ever known. He was honest almost to a fault, He was wonderfully loving and had a great sense of humor. His two attempts at starting his own accounting business failed, most likely because of his extreme honesty.

I was so very happy that John had got to know Pappa the previous summer, even though he was very sick. He had then been suffering from leukemia for over a year.  Most of that time he spent in the hospital in Malmö where my brother-in-law Per was an oncologist and Per saw to it that Pappa got the best possible care and treatment.

After Pappa retired in 1968 he had been given some prestigious jobs as auditor for the city of Malmö. And just a couple of years later he was hit with this incurable form of cancer. It seemed so cruel that when Pappa was finally recognized for his real worth, he had to give up on everything. It was so incredibly sad.

When John and I were there, Pappa told me to come into his study and he explained to me that from the little money he was leaving behind, I would get such and such a sum, and so on. It was spooky sitting next to him on the sofa hearing him talk about what would happen after he died. He had lost so much weight that his suit was hanging loose around his shrunk body

From a lack of the right diplomas he had never had the jobs he deserved, or at least not after the divorce when he had a nervous breakdown. It seemed as if everyone did have a breakdown after that terrible divorce, Pappa, Mamma and I myself who got into a long period of anorexia. My sister Gun seems to have escaped without serious traumas, at least as far as I know. Mother changed forever after the divorce.

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Ossian about 75 years old and his niece, Siv. Ossian lived to be 104.

My dear aunt Emma-Lena, Uncle Ossian, my mother’s brother and the entire family had moved first to Chicago and after retirement to Florida, they had settled in the Tampa region close to the west coast of Florida.

Ossian was a man of few words and innumerable talents. but Emma-Lena and I had many many long talks about their lives and also about Mamma’s and Pappa’s life together. She said that their divorce had not been necessary. I quoted her on that to Gun once who said “Oh if she had heard them arguing, she would never have said that.” How terribly sad. So Gun was probably more traumatized than I had thought from hearing their violent  arguing, which I don’t even remember, except one incident which I try to forget.

Mother got back in shape, at least temporarily, because of her love for her work and especially after she also became the theater photographer and had married Arne. But when her career was over, she broke down definitively and in spite of short periods of some semblance of health, her enormous energy and love of life were gone. (Magda Molins theater pictures, Best pictures)

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John and I of course very often went to shows in teh City on weekends and, coming back to New Rochelle, just off the expressway, there was a newspaper store where we picked up the Sunday Times around midnight. It was the same thing Allyn and I had done for years. We then spent most of Sunday on the floor reading it. I would put aside the Business, Finance, Sports and Real Estate sections, and maybe more, and concentrate on the rest. The Magazine alone, if you wanted to read it carefully could take the rest of the week. At that time journalism was reliable writing, not simply Washington propaganda or ‘government stenography’ as it is now called by progressive writers and critics of the fake news media.

I remember every evening working on lesson preparations and test grading, a thing non-teachers are rarely aware of. Much later on, when my niece Kajsa wanted to switch to becoming a teacher from having been the boss’s secretary at Tetra Pak, I warned her that she must know how, as a teacher, you never feel that all your work is done. But she loves her job. She is lively and has a wonderful sense of humor and her students must love her.

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And there was my friend, Girv Milligan. Girv was a dear friend and colleague of mine from Mamaroneck High School, who subsequently became our friend. He was a special-education teacher and did a fabulous job at it. His students looked up to him as a father figure, or so it seemed to me. The year John was in Paris and I was alone in New Rochelle, I would not have been able to take care of my little 19-toot sailboat, Kijé, if it hadn’t been for the help I got from Girv – or Girvan as his English second wife Pam used to call him. In the old marina in Pelham, before John came over and we moved Kijé to New Rochelle, Girv scratched the barnacles off the bottom of the boat and I particularly remember how the keel was covered with those fiends. Also, I was not the kind of woman who would take out my boat all by myself and so having Girv, accompanied or not by Pam and even once her son Dod, having Girv be the skipper on Kijé added a lot to my lonely life.

I love sailing, but I did prefer having a male sailing buddy, especially in rough weather, which is actually the kind of sailing I like the most. Girv, the same as Allyn, liked to sail in hard winds and we did so many times. I remember with Allyn sailing across the Sound towards what we called the Great Gatsby, by which we meant approximately Great Neck on the northwestern coast of Long Island, which is the central location of the story in “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald. There is (or was) actually a big white estate-like house close to the waterfront just about where that story was supposed to have taken place. So we would tack towards it, or sail before the wind — depending. Tacking is the most fun in sailing, I think, but sailing on a broad beam is of course the most relaxing. 

Nora, Rita and Siv ready to move Kijé from teh Pelham marina to New Rochelle. John took care of the motor and the camera.

The year John had come over to New Rochelle from Paris, we moved Kijé from the drab little cheap marina Allan had found in Pelham to the much nicer and closer New Rochelle marina. It was in fact just a short walk from my apartment in ‘Harbour House’ – British spelling! My student and friend Nora and her friend Rita came with us that day and a couple of other times as well. I needed someone who could handle the motor to get in and out of marinas, and that’s what John was very good at after all his experience with water skiing and motor boating as a young man in Florida.

My young friends, Nora and Rita. We are on our way to New Rochelle marina

Girv, however, was much more than a good sailor. He was an artist who made everything in wood from Native-American-style face masks and wonderful precision inlaid wood boxes to furniture. He made a whole set of dinner table and chairs for a wealthy family in Westchester. I think they paid him very well.  His work was exhibited at an art gallery up the coast frolm Mamaroneck. He once gave me a cubic box with inlays of different kinds of wood that I will forever treasure as a gift from a very dear and an extremely skilled friend. After his death a couple of years ago, his daughter Betsy whom we know well, sent us one of his face masks.

An inlaid box, made by Girv, trhe rtist! He gave it to me eons ago.

We chose from photos and the mask is hanging on a wall in our living room. Girv and Pam were aging hippies with longish hair and Girv with a big mustache and a well-kept beard. They were always dressed in a bohemian and very relaxed way and Pam wore long hippy-like dresses. She also went to Buddhist Zen gatherings upstate New York.

Pam was quite a character. She came from an upper class English family and married a Persian (as she always said) business man who was probably a member of the inner circle of the Shah. I don’t know when Pam, her husband and their three sons left Iran (or Persia, as Pam says), but I do know that they got Frank Lloyd Wright to design a house for them somewhere in the

Here in Paris. Girv and Pam and company on their second visit in 1985

NewYork area, which as far as I know was never finished in their days. I guess the money ran out and Pam’s first husband finished his days on Mallorca, probably the cheapest place for him to live. However, the house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright was sold quite recently, and Pam was there to represent the original owner, so I suppose she was it. Her first husband had been dead for quite some time by then.

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However, that one year in New Rochelle was anything but a boring one. It was filled with theater and opera, ballet and concerts, and I will only skim off the very major events in both the drama and the music fields that we attended that year.

The most remarkable theatrical event during that year was no doubt a play by Fernando Arrabal “And They Put Handcuffs On the Flowers”, director and designer also Arrabal. It was performed at the Mercer Arts Center, Mercer Street, in Greenwich Village in the fall of 1972. This perfectly unconventional play is partly a reflection of Arrabal’s father’s experience in a Spanish prison under Franco’s regime, which Fernando Jr. could never forget. He settled in France in 1955 to be able to see Bertold Brecht’s plays and to get treatment for his tuberculosis. The title in French of his play is ‘Et ils passèrent des menottes aux fleurs’, but it was written in Spanish. It became a great success all over the western world from 1969 on.

Le règle du jeu  writes:

“‘Et ils passèrent des menottes aux fleurs’ est une œuvre atypique, une fresque apocalyptique et géniale, composée de rêves et de délires croisés de quatre prisonniers politiques, au moment où l’homme marche sur l’espace et les tyrans n’en finissent pas de mourir…” 1

I now know that there was quite fierce opposition to the play, shocked reaction by audiences and also negative reviews in the press. However, generally speaking, it was an astounding success. John and I were spellbound. The way the public was seated all around the stage, almost mingling with the actors, immensely increased the feeling of being in the play.  We were fascinated by the outspokenness of the play and the fabulous acting.

In the intermission the actors mingled with the audience as we were having tea or coffee. I went up to one of the actors who was standing by the bar looking as if he was waiting for me to come up and talk to him. I told him how enormously impressed we were. We were completely shaken by what we had seen. Probably due to my feeling of having grown up with the theater, I have never been timid about talking to actors after a show, and in this case my praise was very well received.

Arrabal was an extraordinarily prolific writer, with over a hundred plays published. Besides that, there were novels, essays and a huge amount of poetry. And there was his notorious “Letter to General Franco” published during the dictator’s lifetime. .

Wikipedia says

“Arrabal’s theatre is a wild, brutal, cacophonous, and joyously provocative world. It is a dramatic carnival in which the carcass of our ‘advanced’ civilizations is barbecued over the spits of a permanent revolution. He is the artistic heir of Kafka’s lucidity and [Alfred] Jarry’s humor; in his violence, Arrabal is related to [Marquis de] Sade and Artaud. Yet he is doubtless the only writer to have pushed derision as far as he did. Deeply political and merrily playful, both revolutionary and bohemian, his work is the syndrome of our century of barbed wire and Gulags, a manner of finding a reprieve.”

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Another major event was seeing ‘Petrushka’ by Stravinsky in a Ballets Russes production that was nothing less than historical. Petrushka has long been one of my absolute favorite pieces of music, and as I listen to the music I see the ballet all over again, the teaming masses in a couple of scenes and Petrushka in his cell with and without the ballerina.

Iincidentally, when I first bought my sailboat, a little Rhodes 19, I wanted to name it Petrushka. However, I had second thoughts when I realized that I was going to cut out the letters myself in paper and paint the name of my boat on the stern. So almost as good was ‘Kijé’ by Sergueï Prokofiev, another piece of music that I adore. The only thing I can possibly have against Prokofiev’s Kijé is its that it is too short, and the same thing goes for his ‘Classical Symphony’. Those two are my favorite pieces by Prokofiev, and they are both at the top of my list of most wonderful music. So it was with great joy that I cut out the letters of Kijé (accent and all) in somewhat stiff paper, rowed my dinghy out to my boat and painted Kijé in black paint on the stern of my Rhodes 19..

Petrushka by Nijinsky in 1911, the original performance

In October 1972 we saw Petrushka, this incredibly wonderful ballet, at the City Center, by the Joffrey Ballet. The program says: Scenery and Costumes after the Originals by Alexandre Benols. Michel Fokine was listed as the choreographer, which seems a bit strange since he had already been dead for thirty years by then. There is no mention of any other choreographer. 2

A friend and former colleague of mine, Madge Rosenbaum, a history teacher from Mamaroneck High School, quite a bit older than I, had one foot in France in her beautiful house in Dordogne where she spent half the year after her retirement. I was amazed when she told us that her father had taken her to Monte Carlo when she was a young girl to see the Ballet Russe. That seemed like long gone history to me. I was of course thinking right away of Petrushka, but I don’t remember that she ever told us which ballet she saw.

Amazingly enough, we saw virtually the same performance a few years later in Paris, in 1975, but of course now with different dancers. This time it stated in the program, more correctly, Choréographie d’après Michel Fokine, (inspired by Fokine), and, as in New York City, Décors et Costumes d’Alexandre Benols. However, the remarkable thing here was that Petrushka was now performed by the legendary Rudolf Nureyev with the extraordinarily beautiful and superb dancer Noëlla Pontois as the ballerina, Columbine. The most remarkable aspect of Nureyev’s performance, and no doubt of the original Ballets Russes, was the combination of theater, ballet and mime, which makes the entire ballet such an extraordinarily gripping event.

John and I also saw Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ by the New York City Ballet, choreography by George Balanchine, at the City Center in June 1973. The star was the outstanding and beautiful Allegra Kent. 3 I am not usually a Tchaikovsky lover, but this ballet is one thing I do like by him. It’s wonderfully dramatic and it’s sheer beauty as choreographed by Balanchine. The music and the dancing melt together in a hymn to beauty.

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And of course there was opera, with John being an avid opera aficionado. Two extraordinary opera events occurred that year, connected in one way, even though so different The first oine was hearing my favorite tenor ever, Jon Vickers, in Otello, one of  Verdi’s most excruciatingly moving operas. It was in December 1972 at the Met and Teresa Zylis-Gara sang Desdemona. This Polish opera soprano was entirely up to the task. Jon Vic kers has a tenor voice that is not like any other tenor . His timbre is  so special that I almostt shiver when I hear him sing high drama. Sure, Lusiano Pavarotti or Placido Domingos are wonderful tenors, but Jon Vickers is unique.

I had already seen Otello at Malmö Stadsteataer in a guest performance by the Royal Opera in Stockholm in the spring of 1964, with the outstanding soprano Margareta Hallin as Desdemona, and of course knowing the opera makes a great deal of difference. Margareta Hallin was, in the words of the notoriously shocking music critic Sten Broman (Sydsvenska Dagbladet) ‘the world’s best soprano’. She was, in fact, extraordinary. It is said that the only reason why she never accepted to sing at the Met was because she did not speak English. Be that as it may, Hallin was a superb Desdemona and a superb soprano generally.

A funny little incident that I will never forget occurred at the Met in the fall of ’72. We were watching an opera – it could have been Otello and Teresa Zylis-Gara. We had good seats in the center of the orchestra. At one point the soprano climbed beautifully up on a high note. It was perfection. John and I both chuckled in sheer delight. It’s a funny habit that comes naturally to both of us. A serious middle-aged lady sitting right in front of us, turned around with an irritated look and hushed us. She clearly had no inkling of what made us chuckle so happily. She might even have thought we were not paying attention to the singing. whereas In reality we were overcome by the beauty of it.

The yellow Chagall painting which is inside the Metropolitan Opera (Cover of the program for Petrushka)

The second almost incredible high point in opera that year was seeing and hearing Jon Vickers (again!) in Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes in the spring of 1973. It was also at the Met. Here I was confronted with a first. I did not know Peter Grimes, but I knew the story and I found the performance almost unbearably gripping. I was moved to tears at the end. The sets and costumes were by Tania Moiseiwitsch and the opening scene of the opera was gorgeous, reminiscent of a painting by Rembrandt.

We saw Peter Grimes again a couple of years later in Paris, and again with Jon Vickers. Heavenly. I suspect that the final scenes I remember from that opera were probably more from the Paris production. Peter Grimes is going mad with grief because the young boy who goes fishing with him has drowned. Peter Grimes naturally blames himself for going out in the rough sea with the boy. In fact, I can still today hear in my head Jon Vickers’ uniquely beautiful voice when he screams in despair as he is told that the young boy had drowned. Then he gets into his boat to go and drown himself in the stormy sea. There are of course many excellent tenors who have sung Peter Grimes – Benjamin Britten’s friend, Peter Pears, above all – but I can not imagine anybody but Jon Vickers in that part. To me, Peter Grimes is Jon Vickers. With his incredibly powerful and dramatic tenor, it was heartrending.

The huge fountain in teh center of Lincoln Plaza. Siv sitting on the edge of the fountain.

My enormous delight at hearing Jon Vickers’ singing brings to mind my favorite mezzo soprano, Teresa Berganza.

A few years later in Paris we saw Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ – ‘I Nozze di Figaro’, as the program says. It was in December 1974 and we were with John’s aunt and uncle Ann and Larry who were visiting Paris. Larry was as much of an opera fan as John.

Cherubino was sung by  Teresa Berganza, this most extraordinary mezzo, another voice that to me is unique in its range to me. Her aria – well his area, since she is playing Cherubino – in the Countess’s magnificent bedroom in Act 2, ‘Voi che sapete’ was so unbelievably beautiful that to say it got a standing ovation would be an understatement. The audience went absolutely wild and we would just never stop applauding. I don’t remember one other time when I applauded so furiously that my hands actually got almost sore. 4

If someone asked me very generally who is my favorite opera singer of all – a silly question no doubt, but let’s still assume – I do believe I would say Jon Vickers. His soft and at the same time extraordinarily powerful and dramatic timbre, so perfect that it is almost unearthly, makes me feel that heaven has opened. However, if the question was, more intelligently, which male and which female singer would be my favorite, there is absolutely no doubt. The female singer would be the mezzo Teresa Berganza. I have several favorite sopranos, but Teresa Berganza is my overall favorite female voice. Her timbre, once again, is so special I find it unisque.

Lincoln Center; the Metropolitan Opera left and the New York Philharmonic Hall on the right; later called the Avery Fisher hall

At the Metropolitan Opera we heard another wonderful mezzo, Marilyn Horne as Carmen, in June ’73. You might find her a bit heavyset for the role, but it didn’t matter. She was as seductive as a Carmen should be and perfectly into the part — and her voice is of course perfect for the part – she was Carmen.

Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne were the golden duo who sang in many operas as the leading soprano and the lead mezzo. We never got to see Joan Sutherland though, but I know her voice perfectly well from numerous records — well ,today they are CDs. She is definitely one of my favorite sopranos, and it only happens very rarely that she gets ‘marbles in her mouth’, the way it happens all too often for Maria Callas. That is an expression I have made up because that’s exactly the way it sounds to me. John seems to understand what I mean. It was something that bothered me when I heard Callas on the radio even before I knew John. Allyn and I used to listen to the Saturday afternoon direct broadcasts from the Met (brought to you by Texaco!!!) on WQXR, with an intermission talk by wonderful Milton Cross. What he didn’t know about opera was not worth knowing.

Those were the days when radio hadn’t yet become infested with lies and propaganda. Even political commentators were worth listening to. Eric Severeid, Walter Cronkite, (Following Cronkite’s editorial report about the war in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson is claimed by some to have said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,”) James Reston and, a bit later, Tom Wicker lasted well through my years in the U.S.

When I arrived in the U.S. in 1964, the presidential campaign was in full swing and I was fascinated by following up on it via the editorial page of the New York Times. John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas in the fall of 1963, and it was now Lyndon Johnson vs. Barry Goldwater. Those were the days when it hurt a candidate to be too conservative. We, the librals,  were all horrified by Goldwater. Well, we could never have dreamed of what was coming forty years later. Or even well before that. Actors and clowns become presidents of the U.S. of A. and do what they are told to do by the Big Corporations – now also called the Deep State.

La Callas is of course in a class of her own, both for her voice  Hear her sing Mio bambino caro in Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and you realize right away that this is a superb voice. And not the least for the intensely dramatic delivery (Maria Callas – O Mio Bambino Caro – Giacomo Puccini), for her looks and her generally intense acting that could make a stone shed tears. I have never seen her on stage, just heard her on recordings and on videos, but two of our Paris-Argentinian friends, Saul and George-Alberto, adored her and they had seen her perform live.

However, Renata Tebaldi is, after all, my very favorite among lyric sopranos. For some strange reason I never saw her on the stage. She sang at the Met until 1973 but I have only heard her on recordings. She doesn’t suffer from any of the occasional quirks of la Callas or Sutherland, and she is just superb in her rendering the music, never shrill, always sure of herself, never making you wonder if she is going to manage a note or not. Sheer perfection,, seemingly effortless handling of her voice.

I once gave my brother-in-law, Per, a recording of ‘La Forza del Destino’ by Verdi with Mario del Monaco, Renata Tebaldi and Cesare Siepi..”La Tebaldi “has been said to have possessed one of the most uniquely beautiful voices of the 20th century (Wikipeida) Some time later I asked him what he thought of it. I naturally expected an enthusiastic comment since Per was a great lover of operatic voices. Instead I got the impression that he had never even listened to it. One of my sources of sad disappointment. The thing with Per was that he liked to listen to excerpts only, and I guess I should have realized that he would never listen to an entire opera.

Back to New York City and 1972-73. We saw several Mozart operas that year, Don Giovanni, first in the fall at the New York City Opera, and then again at the Metropolitan Opera in the spring, with Cesare Siepi among other stars. Cosi Fan Tutte at the New York City Opera, which is one of Mozart’s operas that doesn’t do much for me. For one thing it is too static and I like movement and drama, preferably with a pinch of humor thrown in . Not opera buffa, as I would call this ‘spectacle’ I am not a great lover of Don Giovanni either, but there is certainly drama and many beautiful arias.

Marc Chagall’s huge wall painting on the left side of the foyer (from the program for Otello).

However, the other Mozart opera that really stayed with me was ‘The Magic Flute’ (‘Die Zauberflöte’ in my program), George Shirley as Tamino, at the Met in November 1972. It’s an opera that is both a lot of fun and also has many beautiful arias. The sets and costumes were designed by no less than Marc Chagall, who also did the two huge wall paintings in the foyer of the Met that can be seen clearly from the plaza outside.

‘Tales of Hoffman’ (or ‘Les Contes d’Hoffman’ as my program says) is a very different opera that we saw at the New York City Opera in October 1972. It is actually the only one among all the works by Offenbach that I definitely like. Beverly Sills sang all three heroines, and that is definitely the way I think it should be done. This was quite a few years before she decided to give up singing and become the general manager of the New York City Opera. Beverly Sills was at her best and it was a wonderful evening.

Continued: Chapter 22 (Part 2) — An active year with John in New Rochelle

  1. And they put handcuffs on the flowers’ is an atypical work, an apocalyptic and brilliant fresco, composed of the dreams and the intersecting deliriums of four political prisoners, at the time when man walks in space and tyrants never die.
  2. Petrushka was first performed by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris in June 1911 at the Théâtre du Châtelet and this performance was supposed to be a replica of the original one in Paris by the Ballets Russes. The company split after Diaghilev’s death in 1929. One of the two competing managers founded the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, which became the best known branch of the Ballets Russes. It should be added too though that several American ballet companies can be considered as direct descendants of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. At the beginning of World War II Le Ballet Russe made its headquarters in New York City and toured a great number of the major American cities. (Descendants of the Ballets Russes)
  3. “The beloved American ballerina Allegra Kent created and danced in nearly all principal roles in George Balanchine’s celebrated oeuvre during her thirty years as a dancer with the renowned New York City Ballet. “
  4. Teresa Berganza – Voi che sapete – “Le Nozze di Figaro

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