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Fleischmann Changes Mind; Will Stay In L.a.

December 07, 1985|MARC SHULGOLD

Ernest Fleischmann has changed his mind.

In a surprising development Friday, the executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic said he would remain at his present position rather than assume the post of general administrator and artistic director of the Paris Opera, as he had announced a week ago.

The reason for the sudden turnabout, Fleischmann told The Times, was simply a change of heart: "It takes something like this (the Paris job) for one to come face-to-face with one's life, and with what this institution (the Los Angeles Philharmonic) and the people mean."

Fleischmann said he had not signed a three-year contract with the Paris Opera, set to begin in October, 1986, and that formal approval from the French government had yet to be made. He insisted that the only factor in his decision to stay was a personal one.

"I literally made my mind up at midnight last night," he said Friday. "I sent a telex to Paris this morning and have been calling there all day but have not yet made contact. I don't expect any action from them. They have been forthcoming and honest with me, and I am desperately sorry about all this."

In his telex addressed to Jack Lang, the French Minister of Culture, Fleischmann stated, "The immense outpouring of appreciation for my work here, and affection for me personally . . . made me realize that it was impossible for me to leave this great orchestra and this remarkable community."

Asked if there were any other reasons for his decision to remain, Fleischmann replied, "What I wrote said it all. Those were two very heady days in Paris a couple of weeks (when he discussed the post with opera officials there). At that time, I didn't think I had time to think--the whole thing was so exciting.

"I hadn't had time for second thoughts, because there was some pressure from Paris Opera about reaching a decision."

Sidney R. Petersen, president of the Philharmonic board, agreed that the time element was a factor in what turned out to be a premature announcement. "He understood that they (Paris Opera) would be announcing the appointment on Tuesday of last week, so he felt compelled to announce it here the same day.

"As it turned out, the appointment got bogged down in French bureaucracy. (President Francois) Mitterrand was scheduled to approve it on Wednesday of this week, but that got postoned until next week because of the visit by (Polish leader Wojciech) Jaruzelski."

Taxes also caused Fleischmann to reconsider, Petersen said. "He got some bad news from his tax accountant. There was some thought about the risk of double taxation. It turned out to be not a critical factor, but I think it triggered some second thoughts which didn't go away."

Petersen said he and Fleischmann talked almost daily over the Thanksgiving holiday about a way for Fleischmann to maintain some advisory capacity with the Philharmonic simultaneous with his Paris position. "There was no formal plan for him to remain and no pressure from us (the Philharmonic) for him to stay in Los Angeles," he said. "We didn't play it one way or the other."

Petersen said that a preliminary review of possible successors had begun but that "no contacts were made with any of them."

Meanwhile, Fleischmann said his current contract, which expires in 1990, will continue unaffected by recent events.

Fleischmann denied that his resignation and subsequent retraction were a publicity ploy. "I feel bad about all the hoopla," he said. "And I suppose I have to take the consequences. I hope there is not too much damage."

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