Photographs by

Mark B. Anstendig

Jeno Vincze, the most fascinating, most illuminated person I have ever met.

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The most fascinating, most illuminated, most conscious person I have ever met, Jeno Vincze was born in Germany of Hungarian parents. His mother was a true Gypsy and his father spoke over 25 languages.

When I arrived in Berlin and visited the famous Kleist Kasino, as soon as I entered, Jeno came straight over to me and proceeded to change everything about me. I was a musical prodigy, who entered the Juilliard conducting class of Jean Morel in 1954 at the age of 17 and arrived in Berlin with a German Government Grant in 1959. Jeno showed me that, while I was conscious in music and sound, I knew nothing about seeing, little about the visual arts and not much about the theatrical arts. He introduced me to the great theaters of Berlin, including the fabulous Brecht Theater and Komische Oper in East Berlin, where he was a known, welcome guest.

Jeno knew every production of any note in Europe. If there was a premiere of any particularly noteworthy production anywhere in Europe, he was there, even if he had to hitch-hike to get there. He had fascinating friends in every interesting city with whom he was welcome to stay any time. His closest friend and long-time mentor was the director of the German Hapag Lloyd shipping firm and Jeno had passage anywhere he wanted whenever he wanted. Some of the greatest artists in Germany were close friends of his, including Gustave Grundgens and Elizabeth Flickenschild, probably Germany's greatest female actress of the time. When Grundgens directed the Faust II in Hamburg, Jeno schlepped me there for the Faust and for Grundgens' production of Schiller's Elizabeth, Queen of England, starring Flickenschild. After the production, Jeno took me to meet Flickenschild. We had to wait for her at the entrance to the alley at the side of the theater. After a fairly long wait (her costume and makeup was enormously complex and it took a while getting out of it), her limousine pulled up at the alley, a door opened and an arm gestured for Jeno to join her. While I waited, he went to the door, she pulled him into the car and then, for a quick moment, he jumped out, came over to me and apologized profusely for her, saying Mme. Flickenschild just was unable to spend time with anyone new that evening. Then, with an apologetic nod to me, she pulled him into the car and they drove off. After such a draining performance, she just could not stand being around anyone but Jeno.

To be continued.

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