Nada Loutfi rehearses Mozart’s Aria with tenor Kenji Tashiro. Nada will perform a show in honor of her mother who was killed by a mortar in her home in Beirut in 1986. Scott Utterback/The CJ
Today, eyes are turned toward Syria and the war there that has destroyed so much and sent citizens fleeing to become refugees in the region and Europe. But in the 1980s, the Lebanese Civil War permeated news reports. Sparked in 1975 by violence that emerged from a precarious power balance between the Maronite Christians, Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs, the war was inflamed after the Palestinian Liberation Organization sought refuge in the south of the country from Israel Defense Forces.
Growing up in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, Nada Loutfi, a child of a Lebanese researcher and a mother born in Lebanon to Hungarian immigrants, didn’t read the newspapers or watch broadcast news programs much.
“When I was a kid, I never wanted to see the newspaper or watch the news. It was such a disaster,” she said recently.
Instead, she immersed herself in studying music and her piano lessons and by the mid-1980s, her dedication to music had taken her to study at the Paris Conservatory.
But while Loutfi was in France, the war changed her life on March 27, 1986.
On that day, a mortar entered her mother’s bedroom in the family’s Beirut apartment and killed her. She was 40.
Loutfi chose the rarely performed Mozart piece because of its emotional themes recounted by a prisoner in peril who sings a lamentation about his anticipated death. “Must I then die here?” he sings. “Ah, if with my final bitter sighs, I could at least – Oh God! – bid my beloved a last farewell.”“It is similar to what I experienced – because I was never able to say goodbye to my mother,” Loutfi said.
The Brahms Piano Trio reflects the piece she was rehearsing in 1986 with a group she was part of for a scheduled concert.
“We were working on the piece when I called my mother just days before she was killed. It was that last time I talked to her,” Loutfi said. “I was supposed to go there (for the Easter holiday) and I cancelled my return for the first time in my life.”
In the subsequent years, neither her brother nor her father, who died in 2013, could speak about the event. Her father couldn’t even speak her mother’s name. Both were in the apartment at the time.“My father had no idea what had happened. Just after it happened, he went to the bedroom and the door had been seared shut,” she said. “He went immediately to the neighbors’ apartment to ask for help.”
In 1997, Loutfi returned to Beirut to find out for herself.
“I wanted to talk to everyone. I need to make my peace with her death and know about where she was when it happened,” Loutfi said.
For weeks, she talked to her aunts and cousins. Her mother had called them before she was killed to tell them to be careful because she was hearing the bombing.
Loutfi also talked to those neighbors, who had gone to look for Loutfi’s mother in her bedroom.
“They had been able to open the door, and in there was the body of my mom,” she said.But what Loutfi wants to remember is how beautiful her mother was in so many ways.
“She was so generous and warm. People loved her because she had this angelic personality,” she said.
Since then, music has been at the center of Loutfi’s life. She calls music her best language.
And so it is befitting that the pianist is celebrating her mother’s memory and observing her death in a concert of music 30 years on.
Reach reporter Elizabeth Kramer at (502) 582-4682 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @arts_bureau and on Facebook at Elizabeth Kramer – Arts Writer.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Classical Hour with Nada Loutfi/ Valerie Reptsik Memorial Concert
WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday, March 27.
WHERE: Clifton Center, 2117 Payne St. The performance also will be broadcast live on WCHQ 100.9 FM and www.crescenthillradio.com.
COST: Free admission
INFORMATION: 502-896-8480, www.nadaloutfi.com, www.cliftoncenter.org