Several years ago, I lost a very good friend of mine, a person who knew me like no other. Her name was Greta Seelig and for five years she sat next to me for seven Mondays at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. She was 78. Our friendship started casually with small conversation. Soon I found out that she had had the same seat for about 30 years with her husband. Her cousin Lotti now joined her and sat in her husband’s seat. She would tell me about several people who sat in my seat in years past that she had met.
In the course of time Greta and I would talk about Opera and religion. She was a Jew and very active in her congregation in New Jersey. Soon she had me joining her and Lotti at Carnegie Hall to hear Opera Orchestra. The friendship continued. I marveled at what she had seen and heard during the course of her life. Her personal calendar was really a performance schedule. She went to everything it seemed. We swapped holiday greetings. Every so often she would call me to see if I would buy a spare ticket to something. She knew I was a sucker for a good concert. She was right because I always said yes. At intermission Greta would always break out the chocolate and offer Lotti and me a square.
In our continued sharing I found out that she barely escaped the holocaust. She came to the United States from Nazi Germany. I sat in amazement, as she would tell her story. We discussed current anti Semitism in this country. I continued thinking what a life this woman has lived! One time I said how much I was looking forward to hearing Norma next year. She told me in response that Norma was her husband Carl’s favorite. Carl died in 1993 just a few weeks before their 50th wedding anniversary. She also had two sons the same age as my brother Peter and me. Norma, as it turned out was the first Opera Cameron and I heard at the San Francisco Opera in our first subscription here in California.
I was planning the next year to join Greta and Lotti in a small subscription series to City Opera. I tried calling her for more detailed information, but she seemed not to be home. I thought she might have gone to her son’s for Passover. I got the call on Monday morning (April 16th), from her son Jack to say that Greta had died suddenly and quietly two weeks before. That she spoke of me often and how glad he was that I left my number on the message machine so he could call and tell me in person. I went to the Opera that night feeling very alone. My Opera buddy was gone. I think what I will miss is the fact that Greta knew a side to me like no other person. She understood my passion for good music, and I understood hers. Because music is such a big part of my life, she learned quite a bit about me, and I about her so easily. There is something eternal in both the nature of music and spirituality. In some cosmic way it also has to do with human beings.
God shares love for us in ways we never know by bringing in special people for a time into our lives in the strangest places. Greta was one of those people and for the more than 35 operas and various other concerts that we shared together I am grateful for her presence in my life.