—by Grace Browning

Mariko Anraku spent 25 years playing with the  Met orchestra—then COVID hit. But more than a year after being furloughed from the pit at Lincoln Center, the predominant emotion for Anraku isn’t frustration or fear, but gratitude.

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The first time I had the honor of meeting Mariko Anraku was in the pit of the Metropolitan Opera (commonly called the “ Met”) when I was covering her for a performance of Carmen. Listening to her perform live while looking over her shoulder into the audience of the world’s largest opera house, I knew I was in the presence of one of the great artists of our time. One year into the pandemic, Mariko reflects on the importance of perspective, her journey from Tokyo to New York City, and the healing power of live music. 

Harp Column: It’s so good to see you again—two years after playing the Ring Cycle together. In our last conversation, we were discussing silver linings. I’d love to know what have been the highlights for you this year, and perhaps some of the surprises?

Mariko Anraku: Yes, there have been ups and downs, but I’m just so grateful for all the basic things in life—friends, connections, health. Of course, we were all globally shocked, struggling, and surviving during the first few months as the pandemic spread. Especially being in New York City, we were all scrambling in survival mode…remember all those toilet paper jokes and videos? Thank goodness for technology, that we could all stay in touch, and that we’ve gotten through with our health. Of course, there have been some colleagues and friends that I’ve lost. I don’t like to think about that part, but that’s what the pandemic took from us. For me, I think the highlight has been that it’s made me realize what’s really important in life. I think we all needed that globally. I’m hoping, even as we navigate through this, we won’t change back to the way we used to be. The [other highlight is]just realizing how much love there is out there, and how much kindness. I was always a very grateful person, but on a different level, I was reminded of all the angels in this world. 

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