By this time I had completely run out of money so Volker Canaris generously paid for my staff and designers to go to Cologne and spend a week studying the plan. In that one week, we managed to get the support of the French government, French television, WDR and ZDF (German radio and television). With the funds we had already raised and with these additional commitments, it looked as if we had enough money to realize the work. A few days later I flew back to New York, phoned Fitzpatrick, and explained everything — and he said, “It’s too late. We can’t do it.” And I said, “This is financially feasible! We have the monies to do this!” And he said, “It’s too late.” And I said, “It’s all rehearsed and ready to go. How can you say it’s too late?” “It’s already been announced that it’s going to be live.” “Yes,” I said, “but you’ll still have something live — and you’ll have the whole project! And what’s more you’ll have the respect of people who put millions of dollars into this creation!” And he said, “It’s too late. It can’t happen.” It was clear that he had already made up his mind to kill it. So I said, “Please think it over and let’s talk some more in the morning.” About two hours later John Rockwell called from The New York Times and told me he had just received notice over the wire service of the cancellation of the project. And I said, “It’s not possible.” So he read me the release and asked for a statement. I said, “Give me five minutes to think about it and I’ll call you back.” And I did, and said simply that it was very sad and that I thought this should be the piece to bring my work back to America. The piece had been created, I told him, and I hoped that someday it would be seen. Then I called Fitzpatrick and said, “What the hell is going on? What you’ve done shows a complete lack of respect for me and the hundreds of people who worked on this project. It’s immoral. We were supposed to have made a joint statement. This is not a joint statement and it’s also filled with inaccuracies.”
What did Fitzpatrick say?
He didn’t say anything.
Do you remember what you felt at that moment? Anger, bitterness, maybe even a little relief.
Yeah, relief. But sadness too. You know, when you work on something that long . . . and there were so many other people who were sad. Mr. Ueberroth (President of the Los Angeles Organizing Committee) and all the others who were out to make money had no feeling for this project and no understanding of it. They had no idea of how much time and effort had gone into it and how many people had worked to make it happen. They didn’t care. In Paris, L’Humanité wrote that it was a crime against the spirit, a crime against art and culture. It was on the front page. One reason I was so upset with the cancellation was that they said the project had grown out of control and it hadn’t. My budget actually decreased. We began with a figure of 3 million dollars and ended up with 2.3 million.
And you needed another 1.2 million to bring it off?
I guess something like that. Even the world’s largest producing organizations like the Metropolitan Opera or ABT would have found it very difficult to budget a project of this scale with so many unknowns and variables so far in advance but that’s what we did, and we were pretty accurate.
Did you ever consider just presenting one or two sections of the work in L.A., something Fitzpatrick suggested at one point?
I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t. The Italians spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their production. They painted these beautiful drops over a hundred meters long, it cost a hundred thousand dollars just for the drums that held them up. They built the show for Los Angeles as well as their own tiny opera house in Rome, and then they flew everyone out to California to study the theater. In Japan, schoolchildren and artists sent in contributions. The Germans spent so much on the production and the French . . . How could I say to them, “I’m only going to take this section?” These are the people who support my work. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t choose one over another.