"You have no right to destroy my feelings about this performance."

Mr. Masur: You remind me of a meeting I had when I was a very young conductor. I was twenty-four years old and I was in an opera house in Leipzig, Germany. As it happens in opera houses sometimes, they had to suddenly change their scheduled performance. At noon I was asked, “Could you conduct Lohengrin by Wagner tonight?” I had never done it before. We had no time for rehearsal. I just had to do it. I told them, “But I don’t know the piece very well.” They said, “Oh, you have five hours before the performance starts. Please do it.” I said, “Okay, I’ll try.”

About the performance itself, I know that we started and ended together! In between, I couldn’t make any adjustment to what happened. Maybe some places were not so bad. After this performance I felt guilty because it really was an insult to Wagner. Just by chance I met one of our oldest leading actors, who was in the audience, and he was so happy. He said, “It was so wonderful! I was glad to hear it and to see you conduct.” Meanwhile, I was still angry with myself. I said to him, “You shouldn’t say these things about such a bad performance.”

What he said to me I have never forgotten. He was very angry with me, and he said, “You have no right to destroy my feelings about this performance. Even though you have conducted it, this is my experience.” He was very wise, and I have never forgotten that lesson.