I fell in love with opera music when, on my 12th birthday, my father surprised me with an unusual gift – a one-year season ticket to the opera. I was lucky; I got to “see” ten performances (one a month, on the third Wednesday evening of every month) before we were forced to leave our homeland.
But my love for the works of Puccini, Wagner, Verdi, Rossini, Berlioz, Bizet and Mussorgski…(I could go on and on) stayed with me. While at McGill University in Montreal, I organized my studies in a way that allowed me to do my homework while listening to the Texaco Opera Broadcasts from the New York Metropolitan Opera House (the Met) on Saturday afternoons.
This went on for four years during which I kept dreaming about one day perhaps going to New York and attending a LIVE performance at the “Met”. Unfortunately, after graduation, my work required extensive travel and it was only in the 1990’s that I was able to fulfill my dream, but it was, by then. at the Lincoln Center “New” Met. No matter – I became a regular Met opera goer.
So there I was one Saturday in New York, having taken a Delta flight from Montreal in the company of my better half and another couple. We did a bit of shopping and then headed for the Lincoln Center.
“You got the tickets?” I asked my buddy Charles.
He went white. “Oh my God, I forgot to order them.” Then he recovered. “No problem. We’re early… Let’s go and buy them now.”
Easier said than done. At the Met we found that the performance had been sold out and that the usual ticket hawkers and “returns” hanging around the building were “bare” – no tickets anywhere.
It began to rain and Charles and his wife went back to our hotel.
To say that I was furious would be a major understatement. The main reason for our trip was to hear the famous tenor, Alfredo Kraus, sing the title role in Don Giovanni, an opera composed by Mozart and one of my favorites.
No way was I want to miss this performance.
I turned to my companion. “Let’s go back in and let me try once more. Follow me but say nothing, whatever happens.”
I limped to the box office (I had strained my calf muscle playing tennis a couple of days before) and addressed the clerk. “I am Lieutenant-Colonel Landori, Canadian Military Attache in Washington. My secretary said she had arranged for four tickets to be picked up here today.”
She checked and, of course, found nothing. I cursed my imaginary secretary, kept on insisting and pretending to be furious. Which I, of course, was.
The exasperated clerk came up with a solution for how to get rid of me. “Your tickets, Colonel, are probably being held by the VIP Event Manager He is in charge of solving the kind of problems you seem to be having. You’ll find him standing at the head of the steps behind you.”
I limped up the steps and pitched my story to him. While he was checking his papers his assistant, who had been watching me struggling up the stairs, turned to me. “Where did you get it Colonel? Nam?” I nodded.
The Event Manager handed me a piece of paper.” Go to the box office and pay for two tickets”. I stumbled down the stairs and paid. The Manager met us at the auditorium entrance, took the tickets, lead us to our seats and withdrew.
He was back five minutes later, accompanied by two people – the owners of the seats in which we were sitting. He apologized and asked us to leave.
As I limped toward the box office to get my money back, I felt a tug at my sleeve. It was the Assistant Event Manager. “I’ll be damned if I let a wounded veteran miss this performance. It’s special. It’s Kraus. It’s Founders’ Day. Follow me Colonel.”
He lead us back to the auditorium and showed us to two seats plumb in the middle of the main floor just as the lights began to dim. “Keep your heads down like we used to in Nam,” he said to me, “and don’t let anyone make you move away.”
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Alfredo Kraus Trujillo was a distinguished Spanish tenor from the Canary Islands particularly known for the artistry he brought to opera’s bel canto roles.
Click here to listen to him in Don Giovanni