Category Archives: Music – Opera and piano

You can’t take it with you

dhl photoIt was one year ago this July when C and I flew home from Berlin while M stayed on one last week with our two other daughters: playing a few recitals, saying a few more goodbyes, wrapping up our affairs. M walked through the apartment with the landlord one last time; he returned borrowed items to the neighbors: mattress, floor lamp, patio table and chairs. And he asked our friend Doris to drive him to the post office to ship home a few boxes, the odds and ends of our accumulations in Berlin.

I picture Doris pulling up in front of our yellow apartment building in her small hatchback, waving to M up on the balcony. I can see her climbing the red carpeted stairs up to our flat once, twice, to help him carry down the three heavy boxes he’d prepared to send—boxes packed with our family’s winter coats and boots, the handcut wooden puzzles we found in Paris, hiking boots, stuffed animals, and other random items too cumbersome to fit in the remaining suitcases.

There was one last box that wasn’t quite ready to be sealed up and put in the trunk of the car when Doris arrived. Continue reading

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Mercedes moon

ImageOne late September evening when the family was all in their bedtime routines and the sky had been dark for a few hours, I sat down at my computer to close things up for the day, and when I looked up out the window I saw the most beautiful sight: the bright slip of the moon hanging just above the line of apartment buildings to the north of us, shimmering through the leaves on the treetops. I ran into the girls’ room to urge them to come see it in its half state, just peeking above the buildings, and they hurried to the balcony door to see the moon.

“Look!” I said, “It’s about to set,” as the moon narrowed, as if about to dip under the roofline, out of sight—but no, wait, it was getting brighter again. That didn’t make sense. If the moon goes down, it goes down; it doesn’t come back up again. And rather more typical for the moon to rise than set, isn’t it? The kids shrugged their shoulders and wandered back down the hall in their pajamas, ready for books and bed. I lingered at the window watching the moon glow bright with intensity, then disappear, then return again. I chalked it up to the leaves shuddering in the wind, distorting my view, and turned and left the moon behind. Continue reading

What do I know of Beethoven

ImageOur friend Hanna hosted our family for dinner and piano playing the other evening. Not just our family, but also Andrew and Yuri who were visiting us from New York. Hanna is the white-haired professor with saucy red glasses who led us through our visa trials with humor and grace, and we wanted her to meet our old friends from home.

Both Andrew and Yuri had attended conservatory to train in their instruments (French horn, flute) but each later turned to piano as an outlet better suited to home life and occasional practice. They work in fields beyond music and play piano when they can. Hanna is learning piano in her retirement. Continue reading

Verdi doesn’t believe in happiness

Aida

Aida and Radamès in the Staatsoper performance of Aida. Image courtesy of the Staatsoper.

I went to the opera with M on Saturday night. My job, it seems, was to stay awake. Jetlag from my recent trip to Australia sent me to bed most nights before 8 p.m. for the past week, and every night I’d try to stay up just a little later, working my way toward Saturday’s three-hour performance of Aida at the Staatsoper im Schiller Theater. Continue reading

Orient me

Grosser Tiergarten

Großer Tiergarten. Image courtesy of stadtentwicklung.berlin.de

We left the girls alone in the apartment since their groans told us they had no interest in joining us for a walk through the Tiergarten. M and I headed out midday under sunny Sunday skies, with the temps in the 40s. We took Eisenacherstraße north through our neighborhood, farther than I’d ever followed it, to the point where it changes names. I made an effort to lodge the name Courbièrestraße somewhere in my brain so I could find it again later. From there we turned right and emerged on a main thoroughfare, and I took a moment to turn around and observe the small opening, filing it away for future reference. Continue reading

A night at the opera

La Traviata Ruth WalzMy turn came up; I would be accompanying M to the opera. He has been to a number of operas already, of course, but now he has companion tickets, and he’s looking for company. For the first time since we came to Berlin, M and I would be going out in the evening without the kids. A date.

This was a last-minute switch with S. She was the one who was supposed to see La Traviata with her dad. But for a number of reasons, including a biology test slated for the next day, I would go in her place. And I was not prepared.

“You haven’t even read the synopsis,” M said.

“I can find it!” said E, jumping up from her puzzle on the floor. She sat down at M’s laptop and proceeded to log in to the Metropolitan Opera website, and in a moment she had brought up the synopsis of La Traviata, the exact page he’d suggested. Eying her like she’d grown wings, I sat down beside her and started to read. Continue reading

It’s all Brunhilde’s fault

opera tickets

Someone is going to see a lot of opera this year.

Last week I tried to explain why I decided to call this blog “Lost” in Berlin, but I haven’t explained why we’re in Berlin in the first place. Some days I’m not even sure I can trace the path that led us here. But I’ll try.

Neither M nor I are German. We don’t have any German relatives. We’re not here to find our family roots. That’s what people often assume, but that’s not what drew us here.

It all started with a music history class M taught when E was about four. To prepare for the class, he watched a lot of opera videos. A LOT. He had just discovered Met Player (the Metropolitan Opera’s online trove of video recordings of recent and historic operas they’ve produced), and he was getting his money’s worth. When our older girls would hear a plug for Met Player on public radio, they would tease him, “And we’d like to thank our one subscriber, M Mazullo…”

M was watching a ton of Wagner, especially the Ring cycle. And E was right there next to him, glued to the TV. She loved it. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t understand a word of it, and couldn’t read the subtitles either. M told her about every character, major and minor, every plot twist, and what the different musical motives were that related to the characters, and soon it became as exciting to her as The Lord of the Rings. Quizzing her about the arcane details of the four-opera cycle became our family party trick and we shared this game with many dinner guests.

One day she said to us, “I want to know what Brunhilde is saying.”

Continue reading