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Memories of a Viennese childhood


Teaching Denise to love opera
Eric Kandel Scientist
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[Q] You have a great love of opera, when did that develop?

Well that’s interesting. That started… my brother was a fanatic of Wagner. And he would trace the leitmotifs on the phonograph and listen to everything. And he even though he had very little money would buy standing room at the Metropolitan, that’s the old Met. And then Max Rudolf whose daughter, Marianne Rudolf, was a friend of mine, and she married Bob Goldberger. Her father was a conductor at the Met, and when we were medical students, he would give us tickets. I think I told you, Max Rudolf is the great-grandfather of a girl I’ve got working in the lab right now. It’s amazing. I’m going to have lunch with Marianne over the next few weeks. So we would go when tickets were available, and then when I started to date Denise I took her to a dress rehearsal of The Tales of Hoffmann. And at the end of it she said, ‘I don’t enjoy the human voice as a musical instrument’. I said, oy vey! So I started to, you know, move her in the right direction. We went to lieder recitals, Fischer-Dieskau, very good people. And she began to enjoy that. And then we worked slowly toward opera, and now she’s as addicted as I am.

[Q] Even Wagner.

She loves Wagner like I do.

[Q] Amazing. Amazing.

We learned a great deal from each other.

[Q] So you brought that out in her.

Look what she’s doing for me now. I’m taking French lessons now. I’m not sure that’s going to work but we’ll see.

Eric Kandel (b. 1929) is an American neuropsychiatrist. He was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shared the prize with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard. Kandel, who had studied psychoanalysis, wanted to understand how memory works. His mentor, Harry Grundfest, said, 'If you want to understand the brain you're going to have to take a reductionist approach, one cell at a time.' Kandel then studied the neural system of the sea slug Aplysia californica, which has large nerve cells amenable to experimental manipulation and is a member of the simplest group of animals known to be capable of learning. Kandel is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He is also Senior Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, which is now the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University. Kandel's popularized account chronicling his life and research, 'In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind', was awarded the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Science and Technology.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Metropolitan Opera House, Richard Wagner, Max Rudolf, Denise Kandel

Duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2015

Date story went live: 04 May 2016