Berlin Philharmonic main auditorium

Berlin Philharmonic! An opera detour

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I couldn’t resist booking a ticket for Handel’s Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno when I saw it scheduled by the Berlin Philharmonic. Handel’s very first oratorio, written when he was 22; of course, reworked sometimes, but this performance was to be the original version. Lovely. And I’d never been to the Berlin Philharmonic.

I came into town from Marrakech on Wednesday night and did nothing after a long day of travel. But on Thursday, I had a delightful evening with a woman I’d met at my Cancun hostel last December. We’d had a fun day trip to Puerto Morelos together then, and bonded enough to want to keep in touch. Binta is French but works in Berlin, and now she had booked a table for us at a favorite restaurant of hers, La Bigoudène, a little crêperie near Zionskirchstrasse. Easy for me to get to from my hostel by the central station. The food was excellent, the company the best. Looking forward to the next time we can cross paths.

The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Friday, out just a bit in the center of Berlin, a coffee spot for internet a while, a Chinese spot for a little snack before the opera. Wouldn’t want a full meal – nor alcohol – to make me sleepy! And then on to the Berlin Philharmonic. So thrilled. It was one of many moments in this vagabond-time of mine where I am so happy I think my smile won’t fit even through double doors. Would be bouncing off the walls if walls were close! As it was, I was bubbling over before the performance, chatting with whomever around me seemed friendly – and that included the folks beside me and behind me.

One of the four singers was slated to be Franco Fagioli, and I am a big fan; but he cancelled, from illness, and they got Julia Lezhneva to step in. I hope Franco is well, and I will be devastated if he does not perform in Polifemo when I go to Amsterdam in May, but I very much like Julia Lezhneva and was happier to have her in the cast for this evening. She would sing “Lasci la spina” – which would become “Lasci ch’io pianga” in Rinaldo. Delightful.

I loved the performance, all of it. I didn’t know Elsa Benoit before this (my shortcoming) and wondered how the final aria would go. I love it so much, would I be pleased this night? YES, oh yes. Ethereally plaintive, delicate, gorgeous tone. You can find several performances of it on YouTube, but I don’t find Elsa there with this aria – “Tu del ciel ministro eletto.” You might try listening to Julia Lezhneva, Natalie Dessay, or Sabine Devieilhe, or Amanda Forsythe .

A note about Berlin airport connections

It was easy to get a train from the airport to the central station. The signs seemed to indicate that I should take a shuttle to terminal 5 in order to get other trains, but that’s not the case at all. Trains are right below terminal one. You need to stop at the first level underground to buy a ticket, then be sure to take the right elevator for your platform. AND on your platform, check which ZONE your train is on, because they’ll have more than one train on a platform. I got a regular commuter train and that was great.

Returning, I had a hard time finding where to buy a ticket in the central station! They have two machines for long-distance rail travel, but I couldn’t find anything for a regular city ABC-zone ticket, which is only 3 euros 80. It turns out you buy the ticket from the tourist info office! Crazy, it’s just a normal tram/train/bus ticket. And then could find no machine for validating it, and even the only two staff around the trains had no idea, but luckily there was no control on my trip.

That return trip to the airport was on their airport express train, labelled FEX, and in future I’d avoid it and try to get a regular commuter train. Why? Because the FEX train has steep steps for boarding, and then once you’re in the train you have to go either downstairs or upstairs. That’s not something I want to do with a suitcase, or two. The commuter trains are easier to board and easier to manage luggage on.

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