Robert's Thoughts

Comments (7) / January 31, 2024

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.

New York Metropolitan Opera House (the Met)

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.”

* * *

Alfredo Kraus Trujillo

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

7 Responses to :

  1. Gombos Sandor says:

    The hand of fate is so gently tilted in your favour due in no small part to your unhindered imagination. Sly as always Phantom…

  2. Jacob Potashnik says:

    Chutzpah? That’s the kind of chutzpah it took to survive WWII and the post-war years. The limp was inspired, Lieutenant-Colonel… but, since you were fibbing, why didn’t you go all the way and give yourself some scrambled eggs on your shoulder? Rear Admiral Landori. Commodore Landori? Field Marshall Gustave Holtz-Landori? Ah, the things we do for art. When I was doing my starving year in London, in 1976, I wanted to see the last night of the “Proms” and arrived at the RAH as ticket-holders were already streaming in. Too late, as usual. Dejected, I was walking away when a very tall man dressed in Audiencer livery noticed and asked me why the long face? “No ticket.” He reached into his vest pocket and pulled one out. “You mean, like this?” He handed it to me, urging, “Hurry up, ‘bought to start!” At the end, when everyone rose to sing “Jerusalem,” I wept. Cheers!

  3. Robi Kemeny says:

    A great story!

  4. Surányi Bálint says:

    I’m fortunate to inform you, Colonel that we reserved for you 2 tickets for tth Don Giovanni production on 8 march this year. The technical details you can arrange at my secreariate.

  5. Peter Trutschmann says:

    Dear Robert
    Always enjoying your stories.
    My love for operas came about in a bit of a different angle. In the second or third year of a Gymnasium ( Highschool ), a professor entered the class room holding two tickets in his hand, ticket for tonights Don Giovanni at the Vienna State Opera, any takers he asked ? It took a little while and two girls raised slowly their hands and got the tickets. A couple of weeks later, he came again with three tickets, Fidelio ! Anybody ? Two girls again raised their hands and there was a boy, blushing shyly and took the third ticket. We tough boys were stunned, what’s this guy doing ? Next day we went after him, teasing and wanting an explanation. Well he said, I went out with two girls and had an exciting evening, did you ever do that ? We were speechless, but later had to admit that he was right. I did follow his example and became an opera lover just like you. Vienna, Munich, Paris, New York and Montreal were my stops through life.

    Peter T

  6. Lydia Landori says:

    Such a lovely story of your youth at the Opera house…you were lucky to be in such a neo-renaissance masterpiece. The ambiance and the perfect acoustic resonance of Opera for an entire year. What more could you ask for? Thank you Miklos and Franz Joseph for working to create this real gem. It inspires me to go to the Opera in Budapest!

  7. Christian Tylko says:

    Back in the late ’70’s while working for Robert’s accountancy firm in Montreal he led a bunch of us to visit a sick colleague at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital. Of course it was after visiting hours and there must of been six or seven of us. We all briskly sailed past the nurses at their station as students of Dr. Landori, specialist of some unique and bizarre ailment.
    The lesson learned: if you look like you know what you’re doing you’ll get what you want.
    And the link to opera: Several years later, I’m at the Teatro di San Carlos (the opera house in Naples Italy and a twin of La Scala), and I’m videotaping a performance of Madame Butterfly from one of the center box seats. An usher comes up to me and says it’s not permitted and to stop. So, remembering Robert’s chutzpah, I informed him that I’m with the company and taping the performance for the tenor playing Pinkerton; he apologized and let me carry on.

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