In the very beginning of February, when I was just two weeks post-surgery and still pretty woozy from all the drugs, the maestro of our local opera was fired for sexual misconduct. I saw this online — a picture of the maestro, who was in his sixties, tall and thin with a ring of shiny white hair around his balding head coupled with a press release that stated he had engaged in “inappropriate behavior in violation of the company’s policy on harassment.” The release provided no facts or details out of concern for the individuals affected by the maestro’s behavior. In other words, this was a delicate situation and, in order to protect unnamed victims, the maestro had been fired without being given details of his offense. This seemed rather Kafkaesque especially as the press release went far and wide in nanoseconds, and in a flash the maestro’s career was ruined.
My reaction was one of total disbelief. I only knew the maestro by sight. We’d shaken hands at umpteen opera dinners when he’d hurry from table to table, bending to greet guests with a smile and an intense nod of the head. Later, down in the theatre, when everyone was seated and the lights had dimmed, one would see his tuxedoed figure and nimbus of white hair rising dramatically in the orchestra pit. Had my husband and I gone to the after event in the Kodosky Lounge, where champagne was served to subscribers and guests and the maestro made a regular appearance, we would have gotten to know him better. But it was our secret practice to leave (actually sneak out) after the first act when we figured we’d seen enough to get a taste of the production, and we’d already talked to all our friends during the cocktail hour and dinner. Call us lightweights. In our dressy clothes and uncomfortable shoes, we were ready to get out of there early, before the crush of traffic leaving the garage. At another point in his life, my husband George had been a devout opera buff and I myself had grown up with a smattering of knowledge since my grandmother had been a professional singer and understudy for the opera in Hamburg, Germany, but obviously neither of us had the staying power of true aficionados.
So all we really knew about the maestro was that he was an uber talented conductor who’d raised a lot of money for the opera over his fourteen year tenure, and that he was much beloved by most of the patrons.