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German gold for Conlon

March 19, 2009|Diane Haithman

L.A. Opera's James Conlon seems to be turning irony into gold.

Just as Los Angeles Opera music director Conlon is winding up his conducting duties on the company's new production of Wagner's "Das Rheingold" (The Rhine Gold), he is finally bringing home a little gold from the Rhine for himself.

In Wagner's mythological epic, everyone's always squabbling over who gets the gold. And, for more than a decade, Conlon, who served as the city of Cologne, Germany's, general music director from 1989 to 2002, has been locked in a battle over income tax overages.

Maintaining a second residence in Cologne -- his primary residence was in New York City -- obliged Conlon to pay taxes on his earnings in Cologne. The city neglected to turn his full payment over to the federal tax office, which then billed Conlon for the difference, accumulated over a number of years.

On Friday, a court in Cologne finally awarded Conlon $1 million euros -- about $1.33 million in U.S. dollars, at current exchange rates -- to compensate for the money overpaid by Conlon.

"Frankly, I wish they had settled this in an equitable way 10 years ago," Conlon says. "It had as much to do with a sense of justice as it had to do with the money."

-- Diane Haithman

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