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Imperfect pitch.

From a letter sent last October by John S. Karls, a New York City lawyer and accountant, to every member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Dear Sir:

For twenty-nine years I have been one of your season subscribers and patrons. I have been an avid fan for forty-four years and have attended more than 1,400 performances on four continents (typically, twenty-five performances annually at La Scala, the Vienna Staatsoper, and the Royal Opera, plus many more).

I am also a frequent tosser of bouquets:

more than fifteen to Maria Callas from 1953-1958,

more than 125 to Mirella Freni from 1956-1997, including two at the Met last season (quite a few of your colleagues applauded my bouquet, the first on stage to start a forty-five-minute ovation),

and more than ninety to an assortment of other performers over the last forty-four years.

At the matinee performance of Carmen on March 22, 1997, one of my guests attempted to toss a bouquet to Angela Gheorghiu that unfortunately struck one of your colleagues in the orchestra pit. My guest gestured his apologies and your colleague gestured his forgiveness. Another member of the orchestra, however, took it upon himself to berate me and my guest and then to tell Angela that "the whole orchestra" hates her. Although I have tossed bouquets to Angela Gheorghiu on more than a dozen occasions (most of them in Europe), she never communicated with me in any way except for 180 seconds of "chewing me out" after this incident. During the chewing out--the worst 180 seconds of my life--she expressed apprehension about returning to the Met, because "the whole orchestra hates me." In the wake of this imbroglio, her attorneys have requested that I never attempt to give her anything again and never attempt to contact her in any way.

I have written to Joseph Volpe [the general manager of the Met] and have offered to pay for protective netting for you and your colleagues similar to that used at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Mr. Volpe's rejection of the offer leaves you with the following choices: If you want to insure that you are not hit by stray bouquets, you could either leave the orchestra pit during the four to five minutes between the closing curtain and the appearance of the first principal for a solo bow, or you could keep an eye out for "incoming" bouquets. Or you and your colleagues can simply continue to make performers such as Angela Gheorghiu feel unwelcome and uncomfortable at the Met by blaming them for the actions of fans whom they do not know and cannot control.

I make this plea because I have always thrown flowers to Mirella Freni (I tossed two bouquets to her for her Madame Sans-Gene in Zurich last week, I will be tossing a bouquet for her Boheme in Chicago, and I expect to toss for her Tatyana in Turin in February), and I intend to continue tossing bouquets to Mirella until the end of her career. But if Mirella has not retired before she is scheduled to return to New York, I will refrain from tossing a bouquet to her at the Met (even though fifteen of my sixteen bouquets around the world last season landed within three feet of the spot where they were aimed). It would break my heart and leave me totally crushed if I failed to toss her a bouquet at the Met, particularly if that is where she ends her career.

It is difficult to enjoy an opera if one will have to stifle one's enthusiasm at the end. I would rather stop attending opera in New York than put other singers at risk of suffering embarrassment through no fault of their own. Please let me know what you think.
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Title Annotation:from a letter sent Oct 1997 to every member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Author:Karls, John S.
Publication:Harper's Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 1, 1998
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