Putting James Levine in his place

Last night I came home from the second of three performances of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé with the BSO (the third is tomorrow night at Carnegie Hall), and stopped on the way to pick up eggs and bread for breakfast. Since the concert went until after 10 and I live in Arlington, it was almost 11 when I pulled into the Stop’n’Shop on Mass Ave and went looking for my groceries, still wearing my tux.

The place was pretty empty—it closes at midnight—and the only people there were the stock workers and the clerks, one of whom had to put away his soda when I walked up to his line. He started ringing up my stuff with a straight face—pretty good feat, considering I was in full formal attire—and then said, with no preamble, “I’ve never worn a tux…all my friends got married fifteen years ago now and I never had to wear a tux for any of their weddings.”

I said, deciding for some reason not to disclose to this random stranger that I had been singing in the performance, “Well, you could always go to Symphony Hall.”

“Oh yeah!” he said, brightening. “Is that where you were?” I nodded, and he asked, “So who was the guest tonight?”

The guest. Ah yeah. Thanks to years of marketing, the only thing most people remember about the classical performances are the guest stars. I knew the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet had played, but rather than butcher his name, I said, “No guest tonight, just the regular symphony and chorus.”

“Cool,” he said. And then, “So what’s that Keith Lockhart like, anyhow?”

I replied with a straight face, “Amazing,” and beat it before I started cracking up.

And yes, before you say anything, I am of course part of the problem by laughing at this guy rather than informing him of the existence of James Levine. But there is a time and a place for that kind of conversation, and it’s not after 11 PM in the check-out line of a Stop’n’Shop.