Tears, Jeers, and Cheers

January 21, 2015

The close of 2014 and start of 2015 found myself and my family in a state of panic as my father suffered a devastating head injury while visiting me in New York City. What was to be a fun visit for my parents to see me perform at the Metropolitan Opera, and then stay through Christmas, turned to absolute tragedy when my father misjudged a curb and sustained a traumatic brain injury–courtesy of the pavement–on Christmas Eve. While other injuries were also present, it was the brain-bleed that worried the Neuroscientists the most. An associated seizure 7 days later on New Year’s Eve did not help our spirits, as I felt certain that my father would die on New Year’s Day after seeing him laying almost lifeless, and certainly helpless, in the ICU. Unable to hold back the TEARS, my wife, my mother, and certainly I were as crestfallen as imaginable. We sent my mother home to Cleveland the next day, clearly sensing her exhaustion from a week-long vigil in and out of Mount Sinai Hospital. More tears from us both as we said goodbye at the airport. My wife and I stayed behind to monitor events for the next week, but my mother was uncertain that she would ever see my father alive again. As if by a miracle from an avalanche of prayer, my father awoke that January 2nd, 2015; his left side paralysis had abated, and he even began talking again. He was weak to be sure, had a touch of pneumonia (likely from aspirating some food a few days before), but he was still with us… with no recollection of the seizure. He was eventually transported back to Cleveland where he is now in a struggle to heal on all fronts, and regain some mobility and independence. Time will only tell.

With a turnaround time of only three days, I rushed from New York to Cleveland via medical ambulance, and from Cleveland to Chicago by air, just in time to regroup and head to Hong Kong for a much anticipated debut with the Hong Kong Philharmonic. (More on that below.) Just before boarding was to begin on our 777-200 aircraft at O’Hare International Airport, an announcement was made that a maintenance ladder had punctured an exit door on the very aircraft we were about to fly. Needless to say, the aircraft was taken ‘out of service’. Audible JEERS were levied and lobbed at gate agents…but really at United Airlines in particular… and more likely the maintenance team that punctured the aircraft door. Not knowing what was going to happen next, I headed back to the International First Class Lounge, but received no immediate answers. ‘Lo and Behold’, another 777-200 was located (Chicago being a UAL hub), bags were transferred, and we were on our way about 1 hour and 45 minutes late. All in all, not too bad given the circumstances.

Sixteen hours later, a safe landing in Hong Kong, followed by being whisked away via private car to my hotel, represented the beginning of my next adventure–not just the end of a long plane ride. After a day of rest, my colleagues and I embarked on history as the HK PHIL became the first Asian-based symphony to tackle the presentation of Richard Wagner’s fabled ‘Ring’ cycle. With one opera per year being presented, this represents a four-year total project, which is inclusive of recordings as well as performances. The very intense and brilliant Jaap van Zweden leads the forces, and conducts with complete authority. At the time of this writing, I am preparing to sing tonight’s final general/complete run-thru of Das Rheingold, which clocks in at 2 hours and 45 minutes and has no stopping point. There is much anticipation ahead of these series of performances, and I can only hope that at the end of this odyssey I will be able to report that CHEERS capped off the TEARS and JEERS that preceded.

One thing is for certain:

As much as we wish to control our lives and our destinies, some circumstances defy our usually reasonable attempts and expectations. I have an idea of what tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year will bring. I know this because I have a ‘schedule’ that tells me so. However, we will never be able to know what is really going to happen until it has actually passed and become part of our life’s history. It is my hope that a kinder, gentler immediate future in is the offing… because I am really exhausted right now!!

**UPDATE:  Indeed, cheers prevailed in Hong Kong! CASCADES of them…!!