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Ardis Krainik No. 05 [April 22, 1987]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0606
Run Time
0h 9m 53s
Date Produced
April 22 1987
A: . . . [responding to question to talk about Carol Fox's role in Ruth Page leaving Lyric Opera] . . . I don't think it adds.
Q: I don't think so either.
A: If she wants to talk about Carol Fox, that's okay.
Q: She won't, and she doesn't. One of the problems I've been having in putting this together is because of Ruth's personality and style -- I don't think I've ever told that to any other
interviewee and I've interviewed about thirty-five people -- that she always seemed just as you described her, together and in control and all of that. And then you have diaries and business letters from her husband Tom where you know that she's struggling and working . . . .
A: He struggled . . . .
Q: She struggled too, she really did.
A: I mean, he took the brunt of it for her.
Q: Well, yes and no. You know all of those conversations with Carol Fox, she was having, and it's difficult, I think, for people to sympathize with someone who accomplishes things and who appears not to have overcome and not to have struggled to get there. You know that she's just indomitable is the way she is. So I keep asking people for instances of that, so that when you said "I'm not sure that it adds," it adds depth to know that she has gone through something. I don't think it adds depth to say that there were arguments or difficulties with someone else.
A: I don't remember any. Those are the things I've repressed, my dear.
Q: I imagine you have a good many of them.
A: You betcha!
Q: Ruth was very involved in the early days of the Lyric. What would you say were her contributions, her work? In what way did her work contribute to the really enormous success and growth of the Lyric?
A: I made a count of the ballets that Ruth did for us in the years that she was with us. She did forty-one different opera ballets or, like the Revanche and The Merry Widow, her own ballets. I think that the two most important contributions she made, over and above the fact that she was a stable, solid, classy ballet company for the opera company, and the fact that she brought Rudolph Nureyev here in 1963 . . . . I think one of the things that she did that really established her really artistic excellence and made a big splash for the company was Carmina Burana. which was one of the most thrilling evenings here, because of the ballet and because of her choreography. She brought Harald Kreutzberg here to dance Death, and he was by then 65 years old. It was the most stunning evening of ballet and song. It was a real melding. And it was Ruth who just held the whole thing together.
Q: In general do you think that her work helped to set the very high standards of the Lyric? In what way?
A: Lyric Opera has always stood for the highest standard in the art form. Carol Fox founded the company with the idea that it was going to be a first-class international company, and it always was. And I figure that Carol hired Ruth because she saw her as a first-class international ballet person, who would add to the stature of the company. And Ruth always did that.
Q: I'm just checking to see if there are any more questions. Did you know Tom Fisher?
A: Tom Fisher, Ruth's husband, was one of the most remarkable men. I was always in awe of him when I was first at Lyric Opera and I first knew Ruth. They had the most beautiful apartment on Lake Shore Drive, and he was one of those storybook characters who loved Ruth and took care of her and helped her in many, many ways. I thought he was quite a remarkable man. And they were a wonderful couple, and I am always saddened when the end of a person's career is marred and marked with unhappiness and sadness. That's one of the things about Ruth, that no matter what their problems were, she always wanted to dance ballet at Lyric Opera, have a ballet night, and she never really got her wish because we never had enough money, and Carol always had to turn her down.
     But Ruth in the problems of the opera and the problems in her personal life, always rose above everything, so that you never knew what she was going through. And that, I think, is such a great strength, and she was such a great lady. And Tom, her husband, who loved her and doted on her, was someone she always referred to in the most loving terms and supported him in the most wonderful and warm and womanly and wifely way, throughout his entire career 'til his death. It was really quite remarkable, and I always admired that about Ruth. And I always admired Tom and was a little scared of him and a little in awe of him in those days.
Q: Did you go to his funeral, the party that Ruth had after he died?
A: No, I didn't. I didn't go to Tom's funeral.
Q: You didn't. Okay. Because, in fact, she gave a party. There was no funeral. She gave a big party. I'm sure you were probably invited, and it was the way she decided it was the right way to celebrate his life rather than to mourn his death.
A: Exactly. Celebrating someone's life and the wonderful things they did is what you should do. It's what we did for Tito Gobbi. I said "I'm not going to do a memorial service for Tito Gobbi. I refuse to do that." So we did a celebration of his art with WFMT, a two-hour radio show, that his wife who came for it said, "This is the most wonderful tribute or memorial to Tito that has been done in the world." And that's probably what Ruth did for Tom.
Q: Listen, talk about people to whom this opera company owes a debt, Tito Gobi was wonderful. Year after year after year, I would come and see him, and he would sing, and he would direct. It was a loss. [Loretta] When you first worked with Ruth in the clerical side of it, doing the contracts, were there any incidents that you remember in trying to work out contracting difficulties and working with Ruth at that time?
A: I never had any difficulties working with Ruth that I can remember.
Q: [Loretta] But I mean in terms of the contracts and trying to get dancers or trying to get anyone to do a ballet.
A: No.
Q: I have just one last question and that's my standard last question: Is there anything that I haven't asked you about that you would like to say in relation to this?
A: I think that you have really covered the waterfront in your questions about Ruth. You obviously know her very well, and I can't think of anything that I have missed saying about her.
     You know, since Ruth . . . the company . . . I've obviously been in contact with her constantly and over a long period of time but not as closely as in the old days when we were working on a daily basis, but she's always exactly the same and tender and warm and kind.
Q: She's a great lady.
A: I miss not being with her more and I regret it, but that's what happens when your lives part and you both go different directions, and you have to pay attention to the direction you're going.
Q: Okay, thank you. That's it.
A: Is there anything you think I should have said and I didn't?
Q: No.
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)