The five Fall Benefit Galas honoring Zubin Mehta will be shows in themselves.
PART 1 – The Eastern Region
This fall, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra‘s tour will provide seven cities with a major musical event and, in five of them – New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami – one of the most significant social events of any year.
For months, titans of philanthropy have cleared their calendars for the days surrounding the IPO’s appearance in their city and joined robust leadership committees to plan special Gala Benefits. While the format of each varies to reflect local tastes and membership, they are driven by a single purpose: to honor Zubin Mehta and his half-century as IPO music director and principal conductor. Last year Mehta announced that he will step down in 2019.
We preview the three galas within the Eastern Region this issue and will profile the two West Coast Galas in August.
A DINNER TO LAUNCH A TOUR
The first concert of the tour, at Carnegie Hall on October 25, features the tour’s first Gala Benefit. To ensure the lead event’s success as tribute and fund-raiser, the AFIPO needed someone with established connections to New York benefactors as well as the IPO conductor.
Lauren Veronis, a personal friend of Zubin Mehta’s for many years, was the obvious first choice.
“I was very happy to have been asked,” said Lauren, “and in turn asked other friends and supporters who’ve loved the orchestra, and Zubin, and Israel, to join with me. And join they did. It was great to hear everyone say, ‘You know what, I’m involved here, there and everywhere, but this is unique and special. Of course I will be part of it.’
“To me he is not only the principal conductor of the Israel Philharmonic,” she continued, “but its heart and soul. He knows every musician personally … their families … their problems, their health issues, the wonderful things that happen to them, children that are born, children who graduate. He’s a member of their families and the orchestra is his extended family.”
With fellow Benefit Chairmen Lily Safra, Adrienne Arsht, Rita and Charles R. Bronfman, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, Merryl and James S. Tisch, her husband John Veronis and Elaine and James D. Wolfensohn, Lauren has organized a festive Gala Dinner to follow the evening’s all-Mozart concert featuring Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman.
“We’re going to make it all dedicated to Zubin and everything he loves,” she said. “It will very much revolve around his home country of India. I don’t think there’s anything we can do that will ever express how much we admire him and respect him, and how much we want to thank him, but we’re going to try.”
ON TO CANADA, CALIFORNIA AND FLORIDA
In Toronto, where scheduling challenges have prevented an IPO appearance for 26 years, Stanley Hartt, president of the Canadian Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (CFIPO), is heading the effort to make up for lost time. For him, the October 28 concert at Roy Thomson Hall, with pre- and post-concert receptions, will honor Mehta, and a friendship that stretches back more than 50 years to his work with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
“A guest conductor was unable to appear and Zubin just happened to be available,” Hartt recalled. “He stepped in and did such a stellar job that the board decided to persuade him not to leave town. We’ve maintained contact on and off ever since and I am a huge admirer of his lifetime achievements. So, the connection to Zubin is personal with me. That he has chosen to remain affiliated with the Israel Philharmonic after finishing his ties with all the other permanent conducting jobs he has had is itself an amazing tribute.”
To create an organizing committee, Hartt called on a number of community leaders and was able to easily assemble an “extraordinary” group.
“Our Tribute Committee is composed of outstanding individuals who not only know the Jewish community, but the entire Toronto and Montreal communities. I’m supremely confident that they will deliver us the prize as we cross the goal line.”
After IPO stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco and recently added Santa Barbara, the fifth and final gala will be in Miami on Sunday, November 5. Chaim Katzman is the gala chairman. In order to allow Maestro Mehta to attend, the main event will be a brunch well before the evening concert at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Also planned is a post-concert dessert and champagne reception, giving Miamians one more chance to salute the Maestro and the IPO musicians who attend.
While the spotlight is appropriately on Zubin Mehta during this all-important tour, another factor is drawing committed leadership from every city.
“It becomes a highly emotional thing,” Hartt said, “to have what began as an orchestra of survivors of the Holocaust grow into a truly world-class orchestra that now tours internationally.”
“It is the only Israeli institution that travels the world,” said Lauren. “The Israel Philharmonic is such an important ambassador of the state of Israel, and in today’s world it’s more important than it’s ever been.”