Two nights ago, a pretty extraordinary musical event went down at Vienna's Musikverein: a sold-out tribute concert in memory of the late Carlos Kleiber. One of Kleiber's old friends, Riccardo Muti (who described Kleiber as "il mio carissimo amico" -- Kleiber was very likely the only colleague the not-particularly-humble Muti felt actually in awe of), led the Wiener Philharmoniker in a concert in memory of the great maestro who passed away in 2004 and would have turned 80-years-old on July 3.
The program was made of pieces that were often conducted by Kleiber: Mozart's Linzer symphony (that's Symphony 36 for the uninitiated), Schubert's 8th, and Tchaikovsky's Pathétique. Muti explained that this is just the first concert in a whole series devoted to Kleiber for his 80th birthday: the following day he was off to Ljubljana (CK's wife is from Slovenia and it's where he's buried), then to Athens earlier this evening, and tomorrow to Istanbul.
What breaks Opera Chic's heart is that a man of Kleiber's talent never managed to completely escape his father's shadow (Eric, even though a splendid conductor, is no match for his son's genius) and lived plagued by insecurities and neurosis. When in fact, from his stunning Beethoven's Fifth to his Tristan, Opera Chic can safely say she has never heard a conductor, not even Furtwaengler, make music the way Carlito did, with that fire, and that grace.
Below, is a 1970 clip of Carlos -- who, by the way, is a honorary New Yorker since he went to public high school in the Bronx -- in rehearsal for Weber's Der Freischutz:
After the national bestsellers "Make Money With Shakespeare", "Franz Kafka As Motivational Writer" and "Business Secrets of The Prophet Elijah", there's a new business guru in town: Carlos Kleiber, of all people.
Columnist Felix Salmon argues that Kleiber's system -- making himself scarce, then overcharging for his very rare gigs only when his savings were about to run out -- is the way to go even in business:
I like this kind of attitude. Go off and earn a bunch of money, use it to live well, and then, when it runs out, repeat. It's not just conductors who can do this, or performers in general: lawyers can do it too, if they go "of counsel", and the world of management consultancy is full of such people, who prefer a life of adventure to one shackled to a desk.
Of course only a partypeWper would dare to point out that Carlito's way was not exactly a business plan but the poisoned fruit of a lifetime of insecurity, sadness, crippling self doubt and a neverending war of nerves against the very scary unescapable presence -- even after the old man's death -- of that father of his (who wasn't even really his father after all, probably).
But "Wear Your Genius As A Crown Of Thorns, Live a Life of Heartbreak, Then Proceed To Die of the Same Heartbreak" doesn't make for a catchy business book title, I suppose.
Among the many paradoxes of Carlos Kleiber's not-particularly-happy life -- chief among them the horrible, crippling inferiority complex towards a conductor, his father, whose talent was actually inferior to Carlos's -- is that the only Traviata he recorded officially -- with Cotrubas as Violetta -- is also his worst. It's by far his worst record, and it's a pretty bad Traviata even compared to other not-so-stellar versions by other conductors.
Luckily, there have always been alternate versions, bewtleg recordings of Traviata conducted by CK that not only don't suXor but are actually beautiful, Kleiberian wonders of phrasing and clarity.
Among them -- the P2P networks (OperaShare too) are lousy with'em, may Zeus bless'em -- there's this delicious 1985 version @ Munich, Gruberova/Shicoff rawking the haus, Carlos conducting.
But if Angela's voice doesn't sound as small as it apparently did during rehearsals (la Scala is a huge theatre esp. after the renovations that enlarged the backstage area ginormously, and maybe she wasn't completely singing in voce to save her vocal chords for the big night, who knows) and nobody boos her -- the loggionisti don't seem to have a beef with her, just with her hubby, but you never know -- OC should be in for a nice night.
We'll report back, deep in the Milanese night (late afternoon for you East Coast types, teatime in San Francisco).