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The Hungarian Nightingale

A meeting with Gisela Doráti,
better known as 'Gizi',


Our meeting happened some five years back. My close colleague Richard Chlupaty had been strongly urging me to visit her home, several kilometres the other side of Munich and about a couple of hours' journey by train from the main airport. When we arrived at our destination it was past midnight, although I could clearly discern the high mountain tops lit up by the moon in an otherwise pitch-black sky. 'Come on, this way. It's a good job I remember the landmarks from my previous visit. The second road on the right after leaving the church -- there's a large lamp post on the corner!' I was expecting Béla Lugosi transformed into a large bat at any moment; instead I espied a cosy abode, with lighting everywhere. The door was opened wide, immediately. 'We expected you about eight hours ago!' I have never quite worked that one out, but next moment I was hugged fondly by Gizi and, looking over her shoulder I saw someone I had last met in the 1960s. They say of incurable romantics that they never forget a beautiful face. Tonina was, and still is, wonderful to look at. Daughter of the great Hungarian International conductor-composer Antal Doráti, or Toni as his family and close associates called him -- she was smiling right at me, and we hadn't seen each other since then. With my then wife, and holidaying in Rome, I had decided on the spur of the moment to visit the Doráti luxury flat. He was away; instead we were invited to tour round the city landmarks by car.

Tonina, however comes second on my welcome list. His two-years' younger sister Gizi, I had never met at all, and she was also born in Hungary in 1908, which makes her 98 years of age now -- a mere 93 then, with lovely clear-cut features, a fabulous smile, her brain and memory so acute to every detail in her long, sometimes troubled, eternally changing but fascinating life. Linking arms with me, I was conducted indoors and refreshed with numerous drinks and delicious sweetmeats.

Gisela Doráti
Gisela Doráti

Our chance meeting was to create a brand-new friendship, but this is her story in her own words, and recorded in full.

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Copyright © 10 April 2006 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


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