Saturday, December 31, 1978. I turned 25 the previous week. I had reserved a hotel room in New York City for the weekend. I arrived in Manhattan by train at about noon on Saturday December 30 to attend a matinée performance at the Metropolitan Opera of Strauss’s Elektra, based on the ancient Greek tragedy.
On Sunday afternoon, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I purchased two Renoir prints, then took a lengthy walk, and later returned to my hotel room. I reveled in my solo retreat.
That evening I attended a concert performance of Wagner’s opera, Tristan und Isolde at Carnegie Hall, conducted by Eve Queller. At the opening of the concert, Maestro Queller offered a few words of thanks to the audience for choosing to spend New Year’s Eve at Carnegie Hall to listen to Wagner.
Wagner had completed much of Tristan und Isolde during a seven-month secluded sojourn at a suite of rented rooms in Venice, where he arrived by train in August 1858. He worked every morning, went walking in the afternoons, and spent his evenings reading and receiving occasional visitors. He relished his solitude. Venice was the source from which the world would hear “lamentations of the most anguished bliss,” he confided to his journal.
After the concert I headed from 57th Street to Times Square to be among the crowd watching the ball drop to ring in 1979. I took the train back to Philadelphia on Monday morning.