I didn’t want to go to that concert. True, I was the one who bought the tickets, but the only reason I got them was that buying five performances at once cost me less than the three I actually wanted to attend. Still, my husband wanted to go, and so we did. After two hours of driving, we finally entered the state-of-the-art Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
If you haven’t been to Kansas City’s Kauffman Center, you should definitely put it on your list of things to do. For one thing, the building looks similar to the famous Sydney Opera House (trust me, I’ve been there!). Actually, on second thought, the interior of the Kauffman Center is even better.
You may not know the story, so I’ll tell you. The architect who designed the Sydney Opera House spent so much money and took so much time that he and the city authorities began having “irreconcilable differences,” and when they finally got “divorced,” the shell of the building was completed, but the inside was not even started. To finish the project, the city hired several local architects, who did their best with the money they had left – which, sorry to say, does show.
We parked our car and walked upstairs to our seats, past an elderly lady with an oxygen tank and several groups of people with gray hair, canes, and other attributes of old age – all waiting for the elevator. By the way, I’m really worried about the future of classical music. It’s rare that we see young people in the audience. Most of our fellow concert goers are our age and up, which makes me wonder, what’s going to happen to classical music when we die out? Is it going to disappear like the Dodo bird?
It took some time for the concert to get going: at first the symphony director talked about their new season, then the conductor introduced new members of the orchestra, and finally, the orchestra began playing the National Anthem, and everybody got up and sang. As surprising as that was – I am a person who never goes to any sports events where that kind of thing is common – I liked it, for we naturalized citizens often feel aroused by the sounds of the American National Anthem. Eventually, though, the concert started — most of it Russian music. Familiar sounds filled the large hall at the conductor’s will, reminding me of my youth and also of the concerts I attended in Moscow.
Back there, I often went to the Moscow Conservatorium, especially to the concerts conducted by one man. He was a wonderful musician, and it cost me an arm and a leg to go see him. The thing was that in the Russia of my day you couldn’t just buy tickets for a good performance (or anything good, for that matter) — you had to have “connections,” or you had to pay “under the table.”
I never had any connections, so I did the latter, spending more money than I should have. But, what can you do if you’re in love? And I definitely was in love with this man. Well, not with the whole man, just with his back and his hands, for that is how you usually see a conductor – from the back, right? In fact, since I left Moscow, I’ve never met anybody who was as sexy from the back as this guy. His hands flew in the air, enticing and promising carnal pleasures, and with a slight movement of his wrist, he sent thunder and lightning into his audience. When at the end of the concert he turned to face the applause (and the applause was thunderous, I tell you!), all you could see was a middle-aged balding man. Yet while he was conducting, goose bumps crawled up my spine, my legs trembled, and my heart beat like a caged bird. He could have taken me anywhere and done anything he wanted with me, and I wouldn’t have said a word or put up a fight — as long as all I saw was his back and his hands.
The concert in Kansas City was also very good, and so was the conductor. Like that man from my past, he unleashed musical thunder onto his listeners with his raised hands and a flick of his wrist. And when he opened his palms at the end, the final sounds whooshed to the ceiling like released birds. We all experience the power of music one time or another. We know that it can energize or make us sad or angry, but only classical music has the power to make us feel we are better people. It can force our breath to stop and our hearts to ache for no discernible reason, and it can lift our spirit to the heights of beauty and humanity.
It took us some time to leave the building full of people who, instead of hurrying to return to their regular lives, paused at every turn, some to look out the full glass walls of the building at the city below and some to prolong that special feeling one gets when one witnesses true art. We did not hurry either. When we finally got back to our car, I felt exalted but also slightly sad — as if I had left someone very dear to me in a country I would never return to. Or, maybe, that country itself was the object of my longing, for, in the end, the world of music is its own country, a place that has no official language and no boundaries, but beautiful melodies and loyal citizens.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t having any erotic fantasies during this concert. First of all, I am much older now. Secondly, our seats were to the left of the conductor, which allowed me to see his profile but not his back :).
©Svetlana Grobman. All Rights Reserved