COVID CHRONICLES 05/26/20

Making Sense of One Death Among 100,000

Maestro Joel Revzen, 1946–2020.

Lisa spent one night hanging with a close composer friend, who ended up getting very sick. At the benefit dinner, they sat together. The person to the left of them is currently hospitalized on a respirator from the virus. But neither I, who was sitting next to Lisa (and subsequently quarantined with her for weeks), nor anyone else at our table got sick.

There were eight people at our dinner table. Three of them got the COVID-19 virus and showed symptoms. No one else at the table got symptoms, and there has been no confirmation that any of us got the virus, though we presume at least I did.

Obituary: Metropolitan Opera Conductor Joel Revzen Dies of COVID-19-Related Causes Maestro Joel Revzen has died at the age of 74 due to causes related to COVID-19

A biography excerpted from Joel Revzen’s website.

Maestro Joel Revzen was an award-winning conductor who led symphony and opera performances throughout North America and Europe. His active recording career included two releases with the London Symphony Orchestra, as well as critically acclaimed recordings with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Moscow Symphony, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and the Grammy-award winning The Art of Arleen Auger on which he was both pianist and conductor.

On the conducting staff of the Metropolitan Opera from 1999 until his passing, Joel made his MET debut in 2017 with two performances of Eugene Onegin starring Anna Netrebko and Peter Mattei. In 2018/19 he was Assistant Conductor for productions of La Fanciulla de West, Mephistophile, Rigoletto, and La Clemenza di Tito. In the 2019/20 season he will work on productions of Le Nozze di Figaro, Cosi Fan Tutte, and Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

Maestro Revzen held the position of Artistic Director and Principal Conductor for Classical Tahoe starting with the festival’s inaugural season in 2012. Prior to that, he had a decade-long tenure with the Arizona Opera as Artistic Director/Principal Conductor, after 14 years as Artistic Director/Conductor of the Berkshire Opera.

As Guest Conductor, Maestro Revzen appeared all over the world. Recent world-wide performances included his debut with the Havana Chamber Orchestra (Cuba), leading a sold-out performance in Moscow (Russia) with star soprano Hibla Gerzmava, as well as engagements in Theater Erfurt, Germany conducting Carmen, and symphonic works and a concert of Gershwin’s music from Porgy and Bess for Festival Napa Valley.

Revzen was invited by Pinchas Zukerman to serve as Assistant Conductor of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, a post he held for five years, and was a conducting faculty member for nine summers at the Aspen Music Festival.

My Memories

That’s what I was doing when I saw Joel walk into dinner after finishing guest-conducting the orchestra in the concert we’d just seen. He didn’t seem to know exactly where he was headed. Knowing from Lisa that we had an extra seat at our table, I walked up and introduced myself as Lisa’s husband, told him how much I enjoyed the concert, and invited him to sit at our table. We had a wonderfully authentic conversation, which doesn’t always happen at these events. As everyone was leaving, he made a point of saying how much he enjoyed meeting me, and I told him likewise.

Every time I saw him subsequent to that meeting, I was greeted with his big warm smile, even when he didn’t remember my name at first. Over the past couple of years, he became one of those special people at the Festival outside of Lisa’s inner circle — someone with whom I had a real connection.

Making Sense of it All

That’s to say nothing of the guilt. I can’t help but wonder: Did I give Joel the virus that ultimately killed him? I never developed symptoms. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have passed him the virus.

In the end, I have to accept — as all of us who were there do — that we’ll never know; that if we had known then what we know now, we all would have made different choices.

May Joel Revzen’s memory be a blessing.

Professional Communicator, Change Agent & Nonprofit Specialist. “COVID CHRONICLES” documents life under pandemic. Also write on sports, politics and life.