So where amid this festive backstage Lincoln Center crowd was the celebrated composer? I pressed my way through the mob with a handful of magazine clippings and CD liner photos to help me recognize Golijov, whom I’d interviewed several times by phone and e-mail. Finally, I spotted him. He was not, as one might expect, basking in adulation from his adoring fans. He was around the corner, out of the limelight, chatting with his rabbi.

After our brief introduction (Golijov politely signed my copy of his Grammy-nominated double CD set of Pasión) he apologized, “Here is my rabbi’s family, who came all the way tonight from Brookline, Massachusetts,” and turned his attention back to them. This is a man who knows in his heart that it’s more important to honor his rabbi, and his rabbi’s wife and kids, than to mingle with potential patrons, or the press.

Slender and bespectacled, with modest body language and a soft voice, Osvaldo Golijov looks more like a college professor than a cultural luminary. (In fact, he serves on the composition faculties of Holy Cross College, Boston Conservatory, and Tanglewood Music Center.) He lives in Newton, a suburb of Boston, with his wife Sylvia, a music therapist who works with autistic children, and their own three kids, the oldest of whom, Talia, a student at George Washington University, works part-time as her father’s office manager.

Whereas other successful composers actively court media attention, and even hire publicists to increase their visibility, Golijov avoids the press—and Talia assiduously protects his precious writing time.

It takes months of requests before Golijov finally agrees to let me visit him at his Brookline, Massachusetts studio (and only after I assured him I would not be making a special trip. I’d be in the neighborhood anyway). His studio, in a tree-lined residential section of the city, is painted in strong colors, oranges, that evoke the striking cultural mélange that informs his works. Despite his initial reluctance about the interview, Golijov is welcoming and articulate. While we talk, his 11-year-old daughter, Eliana, whose artwork decorates the walls, half-listens and occasionally contributes to the conversation as she writes a short story on her computer in the next room.

“The beauty of composing is that no one pays attention to you,” says Golijov. “Success is wonderful; of course, it’s what we all aspire to. Success allows me to continue my work, and gives me opportunities for larger, more ambitious projects, such as my Metropolitan Opera commission. So I don’t mean to complain. But, you see, paradoxically, success is not ideal for the life of a composer. I’m still learning and adjusting to the problems of fame. I’m figuring out how to continue working under these new circumstances.”

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©2006 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 08/31/06

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FEATURE: Retiring Ringmaster
By Karen Rile