Bwana Clark

by Sedgwick Clark

It was quite a day yesterday for our last complete day in Africa: I rode Coco, a 34-year-old elephant, and got drenched in the all-consuming mist of Victoria Falls. Also, Zimbabwe’s notoriously corrupt president, Robert Mugabe, 88, made a surprise visit to the historic Victoria Falls Hotel, where we stayed our last two days. He was receiving some odd sort of United Nations proclamation as a “leader for tourism,” reported, which added that the U.N. was thus endorsing Zimbabwe as a friendly nation and safe-tourism destination. Human rights activists promptly criticized the move. Mugabe’s odious anti-gay and -lesbian views are well known, as are his abuses on his own people to retain power. Hotel workers wisely put up a photo of the president to mark the occasion, which spoke volumes.

Bwana Clark & Peggy Kane with Norman on Coco

In a few hours I’ll either be aloft or waiting for a plane connection for nearly 20 hours. PK and our favorite travelling companions have had a great two and a half weeks in South Africa. While they have typically been more aware than I, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being liberated from my calendar, not knowing the date, the day, or the time of our activities. Oh, I was aware of a few of the world’s events, such as the deaths of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and my old boss Herbert Breslin. And, on the one day I happened to check, I learned of the most public demonstration yet of Metropolitan Opera head Peter Gelb’s thin skin. Only three weeks after I arrived in New York in September 1968, F-D sang Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder in the first concert I ever heard by the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein—my first live encounters with these great musicians, all in one concert! Herbert rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and my two months with him weren’t my most auspicious, but I still retain a respect for his burning commitment on behalf of most of his clients. As for Peter, heads of arts organizations all stick their heads on the critical chopping block if they aspire to greatness, and attempts to stifle serious criticism after less-than-successful performances will always smell fishy. He was wise to reverse his edict within a matter of hours.

I return to the rigor of my calendar recalling only my 2013 Directory deadlines and a lick of my lips in anticipation of Alan Gilbert’s NYPhil performance of Nielsen’s Third Symphony sometime this month. In my next blog I hope to test your patience with some brief comments on the pre-Africa Spring for Music concerts at Carnegie and the Met’s final performances of the season, as well as scintillating photos and video from our safari. Stay tuned.

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