Just as the New York Philharmonic Opening Night Gala was getting under way, Gary Parr, vice chairman at Lazard Ltd. and chairman of the New York Philharmonic, estimated that his conversations would be 98 percent about music and 2 percent about markets.
By dessert time, under a tent on the Lincoln Center campus, Parr had revised his figures (“92 percent music, 8 percent bank crisis,” he said).
He was still an outlier.
“I’d say 37 percent music, 63 percent markets,” said Philharmonic board member J. Christopher Flowers, founder of JC Flowers & Co. “Where’s Wagner when we need him? He’d get the eurozone whipped into shape.”
The opening-night program included lots of Wagner, the composer who invested so much in Rhine gold, and the last scene from Richard Strauss’s statement on prophets and loss of head, “Salome.”
Deborah Voigt provoked ovations after blasting confidently as the teenage freak who slobbers loudly over the severed head.
Alan Gilbert, the N.Y. Phil’s music chief, led a rousing overture to “Tannhauser,” a grand opera about a minstrel down on his luck.
“It was uplifting,” said Sallie Krawcheck at the end of the concert, looking relaxed and happy a few weeks after she resigned from Bank of America following a management shakeup.
The gala raised $2.6 million, though reality kept intruding.
“Every meeting tonight, the first question is: How is Europe?” said Gunter Dunkel, chairman of the managing board of Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale.
“I say it has a 50/50 chance, but not more,” Dunkel said. “It depends on courageous political leadership. We all know what needs to be done, but they are tough decisions. They need to be explained to the electorate. The choices are between bad and worse.”
At the Plaza Hotel, market talk was center stage as the Atlantic Council held its Global Citizens Award Dinner. The council, formed in 1961, works to strengthen the transatlantic relationship through public-policy discussions and research.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde received one of the council’s awards.
“When I look at the advanced economies going through difficult times, I think of two different philosophers,” Lagarde said.
“One is Schopenhauer, who said ‘Life is tough, and every day makes it worse,’” she said.
She prefers the outlook of Nietzsche:
“He is not necessarily a happy camper, but happier in his conclusions. He said, ‘What does not destroy us, strengthens us.’”
Good thing there was a little music to lighten the mood. Joe Dassin’s upbeat “Aux Champs Elysees” played as Lagarde approached the stage, a fanciful and welcome flourish. After her remarks, pianist Natasha Paremski played Chopin and Rachmaninoff.
The 320 guests, who dined on filet mignon -- also served at the Philharmonic gala -- included: Adrienne Arsht, chairman of the Adrienne Arsht Center Foundation; Victor Chu, chairman of First Eastern Investment Group; and Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Co. All were dinner chairmen as well.
The goody bag included a copy of “Berlin 1961” by the Atlantic Council’s president and chief executive, Frederick Kempe.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)