The last time Zubin Mehta conducted Gustav Mahler’s first symphony in Mumbai, it was Diwali 1967 and the sound of firecrackers outside Sion’s Shanmukhananda Hall formed the background to the orchestra’s music.
On Wednesday, when the master conductor brings Mahler again to the city with the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale from Florence, he will have the India-Pakistan cricket match to contend with and he is not happy about it.
“For me, the match is a tragedy,” said Mehta, who is in Mumbai as part of his Asia tour and will perform at Nariman Point’s Jamshed Bhabha Theatre on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I hope the free tickets being given by sponsors for the match do not go in vain.”
On Tuesday, a good-humoured Mehta added, “We have come to play our hearts out to you. I hope we win both ways — both in Mumbai and in Mohali.”
Mehta is celebrating his 75th birthday and 50th year of his conducting career this year.
“I hear that tickets to the match will not be taxed. But we are being taxed in the same bracket as artistes who rent stages to raise money,” said Mehta, adding that his concerts in Mumbai are non-profit events organised by the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation, which runs entirely on donations.
The state had rejected the Foundation’s request to exempt them from taxes. The concerts’ guest performers — violinist Arabella Steinbacher and tenor Fabio Sartori — are donating their performance fees to charity.