A Flood of Emotions, Music at Carnegie


Practice, practice, practice isn't the only way to Carnegie Hall: For $9,500 plus union labor costs, you can simply rent it. That's precisely what Fred Drasner did for his wife Lora, she said recently, on the occasion of their fifth anniversary, sneaking the rental agreement for Zankel Hall (Carnegie's largest venue) into an oversized Graff jewelry box containing diamond chandelier earrings.

Fred Drasner presents flowers to his wife Lora after her piano recital Saturday at Carnegie Hall.
Fred Drasner presents flowers to his wife Lora after her piano recital Saturday at Carnegie Hall.

According to Ms. Drasner, she had been taking piano lessons for about a year and a half, beginning with Debussy's "Clair de Lune" and working up to Rachmaninoff's "Prelude." Initially, Mr. Drasner, Chairman of VPG Autos and a current bidder for Newsweek Magazine, hadn't taken his wife's tickling the ivories so seriously. When the couple first went to browse the Steinway Store to purchase a piano, he snuck out to the Porsche dealership next door and picked up a convertible instead.

But her persistence was convincing, and so it came to be that on Saturday afternoon, at about 4 p.m., Ms. Drasner was sitting in a dressing room with her hair stylist and makeup artist, directing them over the finishing touches of her sunny locks and skin.

This wouldn't be the first time she had picked up a craft and presented it at a prestigious New York venue: In May 2008, at the Marlborough Gallery in Midtown, she showcased photographs of sunsets she had taken aboard the couple's 165-foot yacht during their three-year honeymoon at sea.

Now she was dressed in a black, custom-made Michael Vollbracht gown, with the words "Lora Drasner Carnegie Hall June 12" beaded along the end of her train. Five hundred friends—some from Miami, London and Bucharest—would appear in a couple of hours. She had one more dress rehearsal, and then an hour of Zen-like preparation.

"I'll probably do some deep breathing and visualizations, playing it all out from start to finish in my mind," she said. And then her moment would arrive.

Except not exactly. With the kind of advanced notice common to Acts of God: a deluge. At first, water trickled in through the bottom of the closed dressing-room door, as if someone had dropped a pitcher just outside. But the stream was steady and continuous. Water and more water crept along the carpet.

Ms. Drasner grabbed her gown up to her knees and retreated into the bathroom, while her hairstylist and makeup artist rushed to collect shoes and bags from the floor. Soon the water was an inch deep, then two, then four. For about 10 minutes, the women were cheery, helpful and barefoot. "The show must go on" was uttered seven or eight times. No one came to inform or rescue. The water gushed.

Finally, a Con Edison worker arrived. A Carnegie Hall representative led Ms. Drasner and her team to a dry dressing room upstairs. Mr. Drasner arrived in a tuxedo with custom-made, treble-clef diamond cuff links. He paced, his brow began to sweat. They learned that a hydrant had burst and leaked into the basement of Carnegie Hall, into the dressing rooms, into the backstage area, down the aisles of Zankel Hall and into the lighting fixtures.

"Can I get you anything?" a Carnegie rep asked Mr. Drasner.

"Well," he said, "I'll probably need a couple of lawyers by the end of the evening."

Finally, a solution emerged: The staff would bring a piano into the Rohatyn Room, where the Drasners planned to serve their guests dinner and drinks before the concert, and Ms. Drasner would perform there. It was not Zankel Hall: the ceilings low, the temperature much too hot, and the acoustics unremarkable. Technically, though, it was still Carnegie Hall. Her mildly agitated guests fanned themselves with their playbills, and when Ms. Drasner began the first notes of "Clair de Lune," the music emerged like a lullaby, and the show went on.