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Jerry Hadley's First Big-time Opera Performance

Ah, but what didn’t happen to Jerry Hadley that first night at City Opera?

He had no stage rehearsal, allowed onto the stage to check out the set for only moments in between scenes just before he’s supposed to go on. It turned out to be only seconds before the stage is filled with everybody but he recognizes no one because he’d never SEEN them before in costume. He was supposed to go out and sing to Lucia’s brother but had no idea which one was him!! A friendly baritone pointed him in the right direction.

When he sat down, discussing details of the impending marriage, he had no idea his sword got caught in the rungs of the chair. And when he got up to follow Lucia’s brother across the stage, here was this chair dragging behind him. Now, I remember seeing that but from where I was up in the Cheap Seats, I wasn’t quite sure what exactly had happened. Some guys came over and helped extricate the chair from his scabbard.

Then his floofy hat caught on fire. The plumage sticking out the back made contact with the flame of a candle as he turned to see his bride-to-be coming down the steps (who was trying not to laugh). The people in the chorus behind him managed to put the hat-fire out in time but the hat, pinned to the back of his wig, slipped off his head. Lucia’s supposed to be distraught over being forced to marry this guy instead of her True Love, Edgardo, right?

But there’s her future husband at the bottom of the steps, his wig askew and this hat hanging off the back of his wig. He was supposed to bow to her with a sweep of his hat – but since he didn’t know there was no hat there, he says he did this kind of Veronica Lake thing and flipped his hair at her! He’s lucky she didn’t kill him on the spot…

Well, once all that’s happened, you figure it’s a short scene, what else can go wrong, right? Edgardo, the Real Tenor, makes his entrance. They all sing the Sextet – no action here, just stand there and sing – but at the end the men draw those swords of theirs and chase Edgardo off the stage.

Unfortunately, not having had any stage rehearsal, Jerry didn’t know exactly where he should be standing or what the other guys were going to be doing. So he draws his sword. They draw their swords. And as they turned to face the back of the stage and the retreating Edgardo as the curtain comes down, Jerry jumps in the air, having taken two swords “right where it hurts.”

On stage, there’s a moment of silence. Then everybody breaks out laughing behind the curtain, welcoming him to the company. Is this, like, hazing? When the curtain first went up on his scene, he saw Beverly Sills, the great soprano who by then had become the director of the City Opera company, sitting in the director’s box, giving him a big smile and a thumbs up. After the chair thing and his floofy hat breaking out in flames, he looked up at one point and the only thing he could see is this mass of red hair on the box rail: she was laughing so hard, she couldn’t even sit up.

At intermission when she came back to his dressing room – after he was thinking “well, it was nice to be able to sing on stage with an opera company like this at least once,” assuming that was his first and last night in the opera world – she looked like she was trying to put a good face on everything but then just broke out in prolonged laughter. He did everything BUT break his leg that night. }} ---"Remembering Jerry Hadley," Dick Strawser's blog, JULY 08, 2009)

Lord Shang and the Commitment Problem

From The Political Philosophy of the Middle Kingdom, chapter 5:

Shang Yang’s radical reforms needed credibility. To achieve this, according to one anecdote, he once put a beam outside a gate of the capital, stating that the man who moved the beam inside the gate would be rewarded handsomely, for what seemed to be a rather simple task. People considered this ridiculous and so no one took up the challenge. He then increased the award fourfold. Someone eventually fulfilled the task and was duly rewarded. This helped establish the credibility of his future policies.

The Parsis

  • Before the refugees could make Gujarat their home, Jaditya Rana, the local monarch, quizzed the Parsis. The story goes that Rana questioned the head priest on how they planned to reside in an already overpopulated place. Nairyosang Dhawal, the leader of the refugees, called for a bowl of milk filled to the brim and a spoonful of sugar. He carefully blended the sugar into the milk, without spilling a drop. Like sugar in the milk, Parsis will blend with the population and sweeten society, said Dhawal. "Pleased with the answer, Rana promised them a home but imposed certain conditions," adds Jamshed Dotivala, president of the Surat Parsi Panchayat. (

Agnew, Nizon, and Connally at the Concert

I will now quote William Safire in his marvelous memoir, Before the Fall:

Concert-goers know that it is improper to applaud between movements of a symphony or concerto; one is supposed to preserve the mood of the music and withhold applause until the conclusion of the work. But many members of that audience were not experienced in concert-going; they bought tickets because it was the thing to do that night of Inaugural weekend and besides, the President would be there.

At the end of the first movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto, most of the audience burst into applause for soloist Van Cliburn. From my orchestra seat I craned my neck to see who was doing what in the Presidential box.

John Connally was clapping enthusiastically. Regular concert-goers in the audience knew immediately that he did not know the right thing to do.

Earlier, between movements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Vice President Agnew had sat stonily, his hands resting in his lap, ostentatiously not applauding. That, too, was a mistake (and of all things, on the elitist side); though the concert-goers would approve, the majority of the audience that looked around wondered why the Vice President did not join in — didn’t he like the performance?

Only Nixon handled the situation with understanding. He did not applaud at first, reassuring other classical music lovers that he was a man who knew what was proper, but after a couple of moments, as eyes turned to him from around the hall, he joined in the applause, so as not to have the people applauding wondering about him, or about their own gaffe.

That is one meaning of “Old Pro.” I was not the only one who noticed this little byplay; Bob Haldeman had also turned in his seat to see what his Boss would do in the circumstances, and when the Nixons joined in the applause, he grinned widely, shook his head, and started to clap as well. The applauding Connally looked at the President too, probably wondering what in hell took him so long to make up his mind.