It has been a few months since the passing of this dear family friend of ours…After visiting her grave on my trip to Berlin a few weeks ago I decided that it was time to write down some of the lovely memories that I have of her.
My grandparents met her about 30 years ago on a holiday in the Czech Republic – as to how exactly the whole thing came along I can’t quite remember. I can remember her visiting us a few times a year from a very young age – everybody would get excited – Tante Jutta is coming! When my grandparents met they saw one of her last performances as Marianne in Der Rosenkavalier at the Staatsoper Berlin as she was retiring from the stage.
Especially when I was younger I remember the fascination that we had with this lady from the big city living this extraoridnary life. It was so alien to anything that I knew from the small town I grew up in. To this day I wish I could’ve spied on some of the meetings my grandparents had with her in Berlin. They went to see her at least twice a year in Berlin and then of course go to the opera or go to concerts and mix and mingle with the who is who of the operatic world. My grandparents have this down to earth charm about them and for some reason they manage to almost enchant complete strangers of a totally different lifestyle. Some of the stories they told were just fascinating.
In 2008 I actually lived with Jutta for 6 weeks whilst doing an internship at the Radisson – it was an interesting experience – the first time for me in a city the size of Berlin. It was very eye opening and it really showed that the operatic world is not all as glitz and glam as it seems and very hard work!
Jutta was still teaching until a few months before her passing. She was very gifted – I remember once she attended a concert of my music school and one girl sang an aria – afterwards she went up to the teacher of the girl and told her what she needed to really teach the girl. Within minutes of someone starting to sing she knew where the issues were. She would also reject students – unless they were willing to work as hard as her she would not take them on. Whilst this might sound cruel she was also one to not hold back and say as it it – I remember messing up during a concert once where she was in attendance and she gave me a good dressing down afterwards – straight to the point and you just couldn’t say anything because she just told the truth.
After I moved away to the UK we would be in regular contact over the phone- she was always curious to hear what I was up to. Every trip to Berlin I would make sure to stop by for a cup of tea and a glass of Sekt. 2014 I was lucky enough to actually see her on stage. The Volksbuehne Berlin was doing a production of Villa Verdi which had Jochen Kowalski, one of her students, as one of the main characters. Originally they had a different person in mind for the role but in the end Frau Vulpius got to be on stage again. It was such a revelation to actually see her – I have only ever known her as a family friend – never as a musician. It was remarable to hear her sing at the age of 86 – her high notes were so clear! I am so grateful to have been give the chance – it was a pure coincidence that I happened to be in Berlin when they had a performance on.
Sadly, on my trip in March 2017, it was time to say goodbye. My grandma got the news of the passing on her birthday back in November – certainly not the best timing… so the very first thing I did in Berlin was to visit Jutta’s grave – have one last cup of Earl Grey and bring some flowers… it wasn’t until I saw the name in stone that it really sunk in… one remarkable woman that made quite an impact in so many lives.
Well, I guess Professor Pischner (1914 – Oct 2016) might have needed a Queen of the Night for a celestial performance…. He was one of her idols and she would’ve like to have lived to 100… but her time came earlier…