My editor had told me to go home early. “Take a nap,” he said. “You’ve been working too hard, and we need you to be fresh for the big concert tonight.” When I got back to the ranch, a phone call awaited. “It’s Riccardo Muti,” my secretary, not at all bad looking, told me. “He wants a few tips on improving his Bruckner.” I told her to tell him I was out and would get back to him. Blissful sleep awaited.
Dinner, a vegetable laden, carbohydrate-rich meal, with some delicately sauteed Dover sole thrown in for brain function, was prepared by Pierre. I must say that Pierre is simply the best. The Limousine arrived promptly at 7 p.m., and my secretary handed me scores and recordings (fetched from the archive) for study on the way. But Charles, my chauffeur, knew the routine. The Lakers were playing Boston tonight — he had it going on the screen in the back seat. I glanced at the music for “Benvenuto Cellini,” coming up at L.A. Opera upon my suggestion (Domingo is such a good listener), during the commercials. What a genius, that Berlioz.
We arrived at the hall a little late, but the game had a couple more minutes to go. The concert could wait. Final score: Lakers 115, Boston 50. Entering the hall I found all in order: audience and orchestra in place, conductor at the ready. A kind of awed exhalation escaped from the throng upon my arrival therein, and people turned to each other and said “There he is” under their breath. I was shown to my seat — specially designed to support my back — by a continually bowing usher who insisted on addressing me as “sahib.” Then, the concert began.
It was critic’s choice night. I had chosen some Berlioz, of course, specifically the frothy Overture to “Beatrice and Benedict,” followed by Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra and Stravinsky’s “Agon.” What the heck. Abbado conducted because he can be good on occasion, I feel. At the end, the orchestra “allowed” me to conduct the encore, “Danse Macabre,” with Leonidas Kavakos as my soloist. Marvelous.
After signing a few autographs, I made my way to the car, parked as usual in the critic’s space right out front. My agent was on the phone. A bidding war for my next collection of reviews had erupted, he told me. Farrar, Straus and Giroux was offering a seven figure advance. I snorted, and my agent knew. We could do better. My secretary informed me that my editor at the paper had called; he really needed and wanted my review. So I dictated one of my typically witty and pithy feuilletons — flavored with learned erudition and read-between-the-lines jabs — and my secretary took it all down on the laptop, sending it off via e-mail just as we arrived at the ranch. Pierre awaited at the door with a glass of cuvée, a sassy little Moët and Chandon if I remember correctly. The next day, my review ran on the front page, above the fold, and was picked up, via wire, in newspapers across the nation, which was all atwitter with excitement and gratitude for my sparkling prose.