Editor’s Note: Cooperstown’s Sam Goodyear has alerted us that Peter Macris, founder of Orpheus Theater, the Glimmerglass Opera and the Foothills Performing Arts Center, passed away early Saturday. In recent years he has been living in Suffield, Conn., near his daughter. Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Meanwhile, here is an appreciation of Macris that Goodyear delivered in 2008 at a testimonial for the giant figure in the development of Otsego County’s arts community.
PETER MACRIS: Man of the Arts
You remember where you were, if you were alive then, when you heard the news that John Kennedy had been assassinated. Similarly you remember where you were when you heard about the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Catastrophes seem to make an indelible mark on us.
But there are happy markers, too. How about Man’s first landing on the Moon? That was a moment for wonder and celebration, all right, not to be forgotten. In that same category I put an evening in March of 1976, at my grandmother’s house at the north end of Otsego Lake. It was on that occasion that I met Peter and Ursula Macris.
Those were the early, heady days of Glimmerglass Opera Theatre. I wasn’t living in the United States at the time and, frankly, an opera company in the middle of upstate New York sounded like an improbable enterprise to me. Until I met Peter.
He was, as always, elegantly dressed and had the unmistakable air of an old-world impresario with all the refinement and none of the affectation. And I’ve noticed ever since that Peter’s dress and demeanor defy categorization. If you were to see him at an international airport, say, it would be hard to pin a nationality on him. He is a sort of singular Everyman.
Of course, he is Greek. And an artist. A fatal combination. Of all the crazy combinations, there can be none crazier. But, thank God for the crazies of the world. Look at the inventors, writers, poets, composers, architects, philosophers and countless innovators who were laughed out of court in their lifetime and who have, in the end, had such an important influence on mankind.
An opera company? Yeah, right. Talk about crazy. Next you’re going to want a Boys Choir, I suppose, or a Choral Society, or a Musical Theater Company. How about throwing in a Performing Arts Center for full-blown insanity?
Peter may be crazy (some of my best friends are crazy) but he is not a lunatic. Far from it. Look at his charming Ursula. A lunatic can’t begin to attract as fine a lady as she. Look at his children: Harry, Sabine, John- and their spouses, and all those grandchildren. Lunatics don’t preside over families like that. And lunatics don’t head foreign language departments at State Universities, as Peter so ably did for years and years. Lunatics don’t have charm. They don’t have a sense of humor. They are rarely modest. They don’t work out every day and keep fit. They are usually not cordial and unflaggingly polite and considerate. They are not generous. They almost never have an unerring instinct for musical and theatrical talent.
I have known Peter now for thirty-two years. He has been a mentor and a friend. I have profited from his creations, appearing in 10 Glimmerglass Opera productions, performing in 7 Orpheus Theatre Productions (besides being a founding board member), singing for 3 years in the Catskill Choral Society, and I am now affiliated with Foothills. My life has been made rich by the difference Peter has made. Many people’s lives have been made rich by the difference Peter has made.
I have long described our region as a sort of Florence. There is so much art and of such singular quality at that. True culture seems to flourish here to a surprisingly high degree. A Florence has to have a Medici, and we do. Ladies and Gentlemen, let us rise and toast the Medici in our midst, Peter Macris.