In early 1963 I was called in—with only five days left before the opening night—to replace an ailing tenor and quickly learn the leading role of Charles Bayard in the Juilliard Opera’s American premiere of Paul Hindemith’s The Long Christmas Dinner
, with a libretto by Thornton Wilder. Since I was not yet affiliated with the school, it was a professional engagement. The thrill for all of us was that Hindemith himself conducted the first performance. I had just returned from studies in Munich, and spent the whole time talking with the maestro in my newly-acquired German. Hindemith was a delight in every way. On opening night I got ahead of myself in a big ensemble piece and, though completely lost, continued to sing at the top of my lungs. Desperate, I finally turned to the conductor for help. Looking directly at me and with a kindly smile, Hindemith put a finger to his lips and bid me shut up while he restored order. Then, like a friendly traffic cop, he raised his arm and cued me into the correct musical lane. With Hindemith at the helm it was smooth sailing for the rest of the evening. In his 1945 song On hearing ‘The Last Rose of Summer’
Hindemith maintains the text’s feeling of suppressed anguish by means of only fleeting references—mostly in the piano—to the famous Irish song in its title.
from notes by Robert White © 1997