How a Classical Music Power Couple Spend Their Sundays
Married for 18 years, Keri-Lynn Wilson and Peter Gelb spend a lot of time apart because of their high-profile careers. Ms. Wilson, 55, is a conductor with gigs all over the world. Mr. Gelb, 69, is the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera.
Even when they are together on the occasional Sunday, work has a way of interfering: While Ms. Wilson prepares for her next maestro engagement, Mr. Gelb is on call for whatever needs doing at the Met, including scrambling to find a replacement if a singer cancels just before a matinee. Sometimes they collaborate: They are currently working on a concert tour of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra. Ms. Wilson, who will conduct, had the idea for the performances after Russia invaded Ukraine last year.
What follows is a typical weekend for the couple when they are both at home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where they live in a duplex, blocks away from the Met.
SOPHISTICATED AND LUXURIOUS Mr. Gelb: I get up between 6 and 6:30. My wife is still sleeping at that point, so I pad down the stairs and start my morning off with a cappuccino with two shots of espresso and skim milk. I have a banana and a vitamin C energy drink, and then I do some early morning phone calls to European colleagues who are awake, answer some of last night’s emails and check the box office report. Ms. Wilson: I typically get up around 7:30. I try to get a good night’s rest. For 25 years, my career has meant living out of suitcases and hotels. If I’ve been on the road a bit, sometimes I confuse the hot and cold taps in the apartment.
SCORES, ON AND OFF THE COURT Mr. Gelb: I usually get an Uber to make sure I catch the 8:20 tram to Roosevelt Island in time for my 8:30-to-10 tennis match at the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club. On my way to tennis I always send Keri-Lynn messages wishing her a good morning. She’s the only person in the world I send emojis to. Ms. Wilson: I came to New York when I was 18 to go to Juilliard. New York has always been special to me. But unfortunately when I’m here I’m usually sitting at my desk with a score. I’ll have my coffee, watch BBC News, have my breakfast of fruit and cereal and yogurt, and then I’ll go right to work.
WATER IN THE BASEMENT Mr. Gelb: By the time I get back to the apartment, Keri-Lynn is doing her daily routine of 30 minutes of swimming. Ms. Wilson: Every single day I swim. We live in a very old building, and the swimming pool in the basement was a major factor in our decision to live here. As a conductor, my body is my machine. Mr. Gelb: It’s an ancient lap pool. In the early 20th century, Isadora Duncan used the area it’s in to rehearse with her dancers.
HOT AND COLD Mr. Gelb: We meet for our first communal activity of the day, a sauna and a steam. We have a sauna and a separate steam room in the apartment. Ms. Wilson: I would add that I’m part Icelandic, and there’s a great Scandinavian tradition of heat contrasted with ice-cold. We always finish with a super cold shower. Mr. Gelb: Then we have a very light lunch, sort of on the fly. Ms. Wilson: We’ll have a hard-boiled egg. We don’t even sit down. We’ll stand at our tall counter. Then I get back to my desk.
COLLABORATING Mr. Gelb: We have next to the kitchen a long, narrow office with two adjoining desks. Usually we’re both in there working. In the case of a project like the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, I fill in Keri-Lynn on dates that have come in from our organizers, and she’ll tell me about the repertoire she’s planning. Ms. Wilson: Putting together a project like this with Peter, who is so brilliant, it wasn’t even daunting. It doesn’t even feel like work.
PIANO ESCAPE Mr. Gelb: We have a music room that has a Steinway baby concert grand, where she also studies her scores. Ms. Wilson: When Peter gets on the phone, that’s where I escape.
THE WORK Mr. Gelb: Some Sundays, there’s a matinee. If it starts at 3, I’ll get there around 2:30 to say hello to the artists and the conductor. And if there are any important patrons to say hello to, I will do that. If I’ve seen the performance several times already, I will go in and out of my office, about 50 yards away from a secret entrance to the general manager’s box. Ms. Wilson: While Peter’s at the matinee, I will still be at my desk. I have perfect pitch, so I can look at a page and hear the notes in my head without having to play them. Nevertheless, it takes a lot of time to read through a score. Just once takes several hours. And then you keep going through it. There’s so many aspects you have to understand: the structure, the dynamics, the phrasing.
SANCTUARY Ms. Wilson: I will finally get away to walk in Central Park, my sanctuary. As much as I like to think I’m relaxing, I’m still studying music. Sometimes I’m listening on my headphones, sometimes I just think about it. I adore looking at Sheep Meadow, that skyline. Many times I’ll record a video message for my cousin in Ukraine. I speak a lot of languages, but I feel very insecure that I don’t speak Ukrainian fluently yet. My best friend who taught me Russian is teaching me Ukrainian.
DINNER FOR TWO Mr. Gelb: I’m the cook. I’ll make fish and vegetables, with the fish probably from Citarella. It’s healthy, too healthy. If I’m craving pasta, I’ll make something for Keri-Lynn and I might make myself spaghetti with clam sauce. Ms. Wilson: Like I said, I treat my body like a machine. I feel like I have more energy if I avoid pasta. While Peter’s doing his dinner prep, I like to play the piano.
COCKTAIL HOUR Ms. Wilson: Once he’s prepped, I like to say, “Peter, can we sit down and have a cocktail?” Mr. Gelb: Keri-Lynn will have a glass of Champagne. I like to have iced vodka.
COMPETITION Mr. Gelb: We might play Scrabble, too. I think I have a larger English vocabulary than she does, but she’s a much more talented Scrabble player. Ms. Wilson: I’ve occasionally ended up getting a word worth 98 points. Mr. Gelb: I find that very demoralizing.
ROLL INTO BED Mr. Gelb: I’m in bed by 11:30, midnight at the latest. Ms. Wilson: I go to bed a little later, maybe 1 or so. I have a wonderful physical therapist who showed me how ballerinas use rollers to stretch out their back muscles. You can use the roller in other ways, too, for all sorts of core exercises. I like to spend 15 minutes doing that before bed. It’s like an extra little workout.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Ms. Wilson on Twitter and Instagram at @Kerilynnwilsonmaestro. Mr. Gelb is not on social media.
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