Posts Tagged ‘Ravinia Festival’


Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

By James Conlon

Done! My convalescence officially came to an end last Thursday when I started rehearsing Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Metropolitan Opera.

Having recently come through surgery to correct damage from repeated bouts of diverticulitis, the fragility of life is on my mind. In general, I write rarely about myself but want to publicly thank the many friends and fans who have sent me good wishes.

“What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger” is a rough translation of a famous adage of Nietzsche. A crisis can disrupt and then create a new and better equilibrium. I have come through the operation and recovery reinvigorated and determined to live every day to its fullest.

I hadn’t realized until after the operation that I had had a close call. From this experience, I have learned not to ignore the body’s messages. Recuperating from surgery has given me an opportunity to reflect deeply and re-order priorities.

I am thankful to be alive; indebted to the excellent medical care I received from my doctors (both in Italy and New York) and New York Presbyterian Hospital. I am grateful to my wife, daughters and friends, all of whom took great care of me afterwards. Now, except for the predictable post-surgery soreness, I feel better than I have in years.

Yesterday, I rehearsed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra returning for the first time in several seasons. Just being there was life affirming. It felt great to be conducting again, to hear their brilliant sonority and to be reunited with friends and colleagues.

I believe in the healing power of music, now more than ever. While recuperating, especially when too tired to read, music focused my mind outside the body in a salutary way. I had conducted for months with intermittent pain, which gradually became chronic and more intense.

Mind over matter, I thought, making my way through the marathon schedules of the Cincinnati May Festival and Ravinia Festival, only feeling good while rehearsing and performing. I had “survived” weeks of rehearsals and five consecutive performances of Verdi’s Macbeth in Florence in the Teatro della Pergola (the theater in which the composer conducted its premiere in 1847), as well as concerts in Paris, Rome and Spoleto.  Making music was the only pain-free part of my day. But its almost addictive powers, liked a double-edged sword, proved dangerous. It helped me, stubborn and determined to keep going forward, to disregard pain that was a sign of the seriousness of my condition. I will never do that again.

I want to thank my friends, and even people whom I do not know, for their thoughtfulness in writing to me. Regrettably it is impossible to respond to every individual. I am grateful for the indulgence of the editors of Musical America who have been gracious about my absence from the web site, and who have given me the opportunity to say thank you.

And now back to work, to health, and to music.