Musical Notes

A Danish musician discovered her origins in a briefcase – they led to a holy city in Maharashtra

Maria Badstue had set aside all thoughts of her adoption from India. An invitation to conduct an opera in Mumbai made her confront her past.

The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is poised to stage its first full-length Italian opera, Domenico Cimarosa’s comedy Il Matrimonio Segreto, with a run of four performances from July 27 to 29. The opera’s conductor Maria Badstue has a heartwarming connection to India – she was adopted from here by a Danish family at five months of age and is returning to the country for the first time in 35 years.

In Denmark, Badstue grew up in a small village in the countryside. Her parents were upfront about the adoption, but up until the moment she was invited to conduct Il Matrimonio Segreto, she believed she had been born in Bombay.

“Back home we have a big and heavy briefcase with all my adoption papers, and letters to and from the adoption agency,” said Badstue, adding that as someone brought up by a Danish family, she has always felt Danish. “I never really took a big interest in the Indian part of myself... At times I gave it some thought, but I always pushed away those thoughts. In my youth in Denmark I tried to fit in, as most youngsters do, so I didn’t actually open that briefcase until one week before I got here.”

A document inside informed her that she came from an orphanage in Pandharpur, a pilgrimage site in Maharashtra.

Photo credit: Maria Badstue
Photo credit: Maria Badstue

Growing up, Badstue could never visualise what a grown Indian woman looked like – there was nobody of Indian origin in her small Danish village. Once, when a black woman of African descent passed on the street, a young Badstue asked her mother if that’s who she would look like as an adult.

“When you wake up every morning, look in the mirror and recognise that you don’t look like anyone around you, I think it is rooted very deep in you, that you actually are different,” Badstue said.

Having blended in so well in her adopted country, Badstue said she felt some apprehension about coming to India – going back to her roots could prove to be emotionally tumultuous. Finally, it took a professional gig to bring her to the country of her birth.

Universal language

Nobody in Badstue’s adoptive family had any musical training. Her introduction to music began when she was a nine-year-old, through a scout organisation at school. She took up the cornet, then played the trumpet and became a professional trumpeter.

Badstue said she feels music is ingrained in her Indian ancestry. “They have many brass bands in Denmark. I started conducting in one when I was 17. When I turned 20, I was conducting professional players for the first time. I spent a lot of time studying scores and seeing myself beating in front of the mirror. I don’t know where this comes from, but I keep telling myself that it somehow comes from my Indian genes because my Danish family has nothing to do with the arts.”

In 2007, when Badstue was 25, she was mentored by the much-respected Finnish conductor Jorma Panula. She remained in training with Panula for the next five years.

Play
Credit: elsistemapunktse/ via YouTube.com

“When I auditioned for conducting studies at the Oslo Academy in 2011, I told myself that if I did not get in I would go to India,” she recalled. But she did get in, and soon became incredibly busy with her rigorous training schedule.

By sheer coincidence, she recently met Patricia Rozario and Mark Troop, the founders and artistic directors of Giving Voice Society, which is producing the Cimarosa opera in London. She agreed to conduct the opera in Mumbai – and realised it was time to confront her past. She opened the briefcase holding her adoption papers on June 30. Inside were details of her beginnings in Pandharpur, Maharashtra.

Returning home

For Badstue, it was an emotional homecoming from the moment she landed in Mumbai. “I actually had tears in my eyes when I saw people everywhere looking like me, with black hair and brown eyes. It was a wonderful feeling to see people around you who look like you. I had not experienced this before. I had no idea how beautiful Indian women are.”

Rehearsals with the double cast of singers and the musicians of the Symphony Orchestra of India have been intensive, but Badstue has managed see a bit of Mumbai – and is thrilled by the experience. “Everyone in the public space seems very polite and helpful, and they smile a lot,” she said. “I meet friendly people all the time. The city is so vibrant, hectic...and a bit chaotic.”

Photo credit: Maria Badstue
Photo credit: Maria Badstue

Two aspects of India have moved Badstue deeply – its incredible talent and the abject poverty one encounters, existing cheek and jowl with high-rises and multiplexes. “I am very aware about the fact that it could have been me living on the streets,” she said.

As a musician, she has only just begun to delve into Indian music. “India’s strong and distinguished tradition of classical Indian music is a whole new and exciting world for me. There is so much potential here, and some beautiful voices. They are not afraid to work hard. For example, 10-hour-long rehearsals would not have been allowed in Denmark.”

Having experienced a bit of professional and public life in India, Badstue is keen to return. “It would be a great personal and professional honour to develop classical western music in India.”

Play
Credit: stinne2000/via YouTube.com
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

When house hunting is as easy as shopping for groceries

The supermarket experience comes to a sector where you least expected it.

The woes of a house hunter in India are many. The dreary process starts with circling classifieds in newspapers and collecting shiny brochures. You flip through the proposed and ready designs that launch a hundred daydreams on the spot. So far so good. But, every house hunter would attest to the soul-crushing experience of checking out a disappointing property.

The kitchen of a 2BHK is carved from the corner of the hall, the 3BHK is a converted 2BHK, the building looks much older than in the pictures…. after months of reading the fine line, and between the lines, you feel like all the diagrams and highlights seem to blur into each other.

After much mental stress, if you do manage to zero in on a decent property, there’s a whole new world of knowledge to be navigated - home loans to be sifted through, taxes to be sorted and a finance degree to be earned for understanding it all.

Do you wish a real estate platform would address all your woes? Like a supermarket, where your every need (and want) is catered to? Imagine all your property choices nicely lined up and arranged with neat labels and offers. Imagine being able to compare all your choices side by side. Imagine viewing verfied listings and knowing what you see is what you get. Imagine having other buyers and experts guiding you along every step while you make one of the most important investments in your life. Imagine...

MagicBricks has made every Indian house hunters’ daydream of a simplified real estate supermarket a reality. Now you have more than a pile of brochures at your disposal as the online real estate marketplace brings you lakhs of choices to your fingertips. Instead of bookmarking pages, you can narrow down your choices by area, budget, house type etc. Just so you aren’t hit by FOMO, you can always add a suburb you’ve been eyeing or an extra bedroom to your filter. But there’s more to a house than just floor space. On MagicBricks, you can check for good schools in the vicinity, a park for evening walks or at least an assured easier commute. Save time and energy by vetting properties based on the specs, pictures and floor plans uploaded and have all your niggling concerns addressed on the users’ forum.

Shortlisted a property? Great! No need to descend down another spiral of anxiety. Get help from reliable experts on MagicBricks on matters of legalities, home loans, investment, property worth etc. You can even avail their astrology and Vastu services to ensure an auspicious start to life in your new home or office. With its entire gamut of offerings, MagicBricks has indeed brought the supermarket experience to real estate in India, as this fun video shows below.

Play

Get started with a simplified experience of buying, renting and selling property on MagicBricks here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of MagicBricks and not by the Scroll editorial team.