A Conductor And His Fashion Style
Home for the holidays from recently conducting the world-premiere live recording of the “Tabasco” opera in Europe, Paul Mauffray walks into the Christmas-adorned lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel looking like a model on the runway. A tall, handsome man with a ready smile and a firm handshake, he is dressed in a stylish black velvet dinner jacket with a wine silk handkerchief in his pocket that matches the wine silk shirt he is wearing. To complete the holiday look, he sports a necklace of tiny twinkling Christmas lights around his neck.
Always aware of his appearance, Paul says he enjoys adding a bit of local New Orleans flair, such as a fleur-de-lis pin to his suits. So it was only natural for him to show up as a contender for the best-dressed man in the packed dining room of Antoine’s Restaurant when he was a special guest at Margarita Bergen’s recent Christmas Roundtable lunch.
“I knew everyone would be in flamboyant fashion,” he says. “So my contribution was to wear a Christmas necklace of tiny holiday lights instead of a tie, although I have plenty of goofy Christmas ties, including ones adorned with Nutcrackers, which I just cannot bring myself to wear. In the end, I trusted the black velvet dinner jacket that is a favorite of mine. I purchased it in Amsterdam, and it is perfect to wear when it is cold outside. I love how it adds a comfy pajama-like feel to otherwise formal attire, and it makes me feel like I should be in slippers by a fireplace.”
Today, Paul is well aware that conducting in front of an orchestra calls for you to look your best. “Many years ago, I remember clearly how a wise friend of mine commented that although he could not tell whether a conductor was good or not, he was certain that Phillippe Entremont, the much-admired conductor of the then New Orleans Symphony Orchestra (1980-86), was always impeccably dressed,” he says. “Although Beethoven himself was not known for dressing well at all, I prefer presenting his, and other classical music, in the most distinguished manner instead of dressing it down.”
A native of Louisiana, he proudly says, “My family traces its New Orleans heritage back to Spanish and French settlers.” Paul graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) and Louisiana State University, where he earned a bachelor’s of arts degree in music and German. His illustrious career includes conducting in 16 countries on three continents. He has an impressive list of conducting awards to his credit, including winning an honorary mention from The American Prize for Professional Conductors in 2014, and he is currently awaiting results as a second time finalist for the same award in 2015. He was a finalist twice in the Bela Bartok International Opera Conducting Competition in Romania where he won second prize in 2007. He won first prize in the Freedman Opera Conducting Competition in 1996 and an honorary mention and semi-finalist award in the Prague Spring International Conducting Competition in the Czech Republic.
One of Paul’s major projects has been to uncover everything possible about the “Tabasco” opera, which was performed in a nationwide tour in 1894. He has conducted “Tabasco” in New Orleans and several other cities in the country. He is fluent in English, German, and Czech, with a good working knowledge of French and Italian.
“New Orleans is a fun, yet challenging city to dress for since there are so many people who enjoy dressing a bit crazy in an almost year around carnival spirit. Often I will attend two or three events in one day where some require black tie and others have a quirky costume theme. I seriously doubt there is any other city in the world with as many crazy masked or costumed events.”
Then, on a more serious note, he begins to speak about Beethoven: “I always feel Beethoven is a kindred soul since we share the same birthday. I also believe he is looking over my shoulder. It’s a glorious responsibility to represent his music, so I try allowing only a bit of the laissez les bons temps roulez spirit of New Orleans to show through my otherwise somewhat conservative personality, which is always thinking of the classical arts. This is, of course, the perfect dichotomy of the Apollonian and Dionysian aspects of art.”
He conducts regularly in Europe (primarily Austria, including the assistant conductor of operas at the Salzburg Festival, and Czech, having been engaged in the National Theater and working as assistant conductor with conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, and the Slovak Republics).
Why does he always come home for the holidays? “I will always prefer winter in Louisiana,” he says. “Plus, it is cruel to have to go too long without an oyster po-boy.”