Music: Mitty Maestro

Conductor Bergen Who?

It is one of the strangest musical customs in New York City. Three or four times a year, Charlotte Bergen, a wealthy recluse from Bernardsville, N.J., rents Carnegie Hall and conducts a free concert. She hires the American Symphony Orchestra and various soloists, gets out her 2-ft.-long baton and mounts the podium as maestro for the day—paying some $40,000 for the Mittyesque experience. She has no formal training in conducting. Also she is a frail woman of 81 encumbered with a heavy back brace.

But when Bergen stepped slowly out onstage and gave the downbeat for her latest concert, she...

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