The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 9, Number 2
Apr 1985


LC Rescues Score in Time for Concert

Following the premiere of Leonard Bernstein's new opera "A Quiet Place" at La Scala in Milan, the manuscripts of the opera were shipped to the Kennedy Center in Washington for the American premiere. When the cases containing the manuscripts were opened, it was discovered that they had suffered serious water damage in transit. Also damaged was the score to Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti," which is performed as a companion piece. Although photocopies of earlier drafts of the two operas exist, the water-damaged manuscripts are the only copies containing Bernstein's latest revisions.

The damage was discovered at 1:00 on Friday afternoon, July 6. the performance was scheduled for July 21, under conductor John Mauceri. The Administrator of the Kennedy Center, Richard Owens, placed an urgent call to the Library of Congress's Performing Arts Library, which is housed at the Center. His appeal for help was forwarded to the Conservation Office in the Madison Building.

If the current revision of the work was to be performed, the scores would have to be salvaged quickly and sent to Bernstein in New York for inspection and copying as necessary, then returned to the Kennedy Canter for rehearsals. Under the circumstances, it was decided to perform the salvage work in the lab beginning immediately. The scores were delivered within the hour to Conservation Officer Peter Waters.

The news sources for this story do not say whether the scores were returned by Bernstein in time for rehearsals, though they were dried and sent to him in less than six days. This was a remarkable accomplishment considering the size of the problem. There were five conductor's scores and 65 part scores, all reprographic copies in cardboard covers, all wet, heavily annotated in four colors, stained blue with offset images from the water-soluble dye in the reprographic ink, and sticking together where correction fluid had been used, as well as from a paper filler that acted as an adhesive when wet. There was evidence of mold in the suitcases in which the scores had been shipped.

The scores were laid out on work tables and inspected. The pages of the conductor's scores were hardest to separate, so they were frozen to hold then over the weekend and the rest of the afternoon was spent interleaving the 65 part scores to prevent further damage from offsetting and fusion over the weekend. The scores were not disbound, because this night have created collation problems. Spunbonded polyester and silicone paper were used for interleaving. the scores were then placed on drying racks and large fans turned on them over the weekend, not with the expectation of drying then entirely, but to prevent mold.

On Monday the part scores were dried using hand-held hair dryers and the draft of a fume hood. When they were almost completely dry, they were pressed for two days, with blotters inside the card covers.

The conductor's scores were removed from the freezer on Tuesday and the pages separated by careful manipulation while totally immersed in water. Interleaving and drying proceeded as with the part scores.

Mold in the two suitcases was successfully dealt with by the use of cachets of thymol crystals over the five-day period.

This rescue operation was unusual in that it was performed at the Library of Congress by its own personnel. Normally, emergency calls regarding water-damaged books and paper are handled on a consultant basis by Peter Waters or Robert McComb, and the materials are treated in their own institution or one nearby, or by commercial firms. Although the Library of Congress will also consult with individuals who have water-damaged materials, it does not perform salvage or conservation work for individuals.

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