“An artist wasn’t born, but somebody becomes an artist.”

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Eva Marton is one of the most outstanding dramatic sopranos of the world. Beside the works of Verdi, Puccini, Richard Strauss and Wagner she is at home in the verismo, too. She was born on 18 June in 1943. After her studies in Franz Liszt Music Academy in Budapest she debuted in the Hungarian State Opera in 1968. In 1972 she was engaged to the Frankfurt Opera by Christoph von Dohnányi. Her international career has started from here. She has sung with such conductors like Riccardo Muti, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Giuseppe Patané, Erich Leinsdorf, Colin Davis, James Levine or Sir Georg Solti and with such singers like Birgit Nilsson, Tito Gobbi, Edita Gruberova, Peter Schreier and Placido Domingo. She has appeared in every significant opera house and festival. From her studio-record discography we should have mention Bartók’s Bleubeard’s Castle, Richard Strauss’s Elektra andSalome and Wagner’s Ring.

Hobby: reading, theater, museums, movies

Favorite book: Géza Gárdonyi: Eclipse of the crescent moon (Stars of Eger)

Favorite film: Papillon

Favorite actor: Anna Magnani, Steve NcQueenn

Favorite conductor: Erich Leinsdorf, Klaus Tennstedt, Christian Thielemann, Sir Georg Solti, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta…

Favorite record: live Turandot from 1983, Wien and Turandot-film from MET

 

Eva Marton is home again – this was well-known from her guest performances in the Hungarian State Opera. Since September she has been a department head in the Franz Liszt Academy-University of Music – this side of her wasn’t so known till now. And it seems she is as strong-minded and purposeful in this filed as a singer. She talked about her ideas, her plans, the past and the future with Gábor Mesterházi.

 

- What do You think, what is the reason of that if somebody is in the forefront of the world for a long time, it isn’t enough well-known in Hungary.

 

- Perhaps many of us could “diminish” the greats to themselves – as self-justification. While the Hungarian media often uses such words like “world-famous”, when I sung two protagonist roles in Tannhäuser in Bayreuth in 1977-78, it was broadcasted in everywhere except in Hungary. We have a sort of false modesty: we don’t recognize gladly the other’s success. I wasn’t interested in that, if any other soprano sings my roles, but I have always learnt from the other’s error. For example I heard 17 live performances from Turandot. This role was advised me by Birgit Nilsson herself in 1981, when we rehearsed Die Frau ohne Schatten in the Metropolitan – this way of help it’s possible, but it’s wanting in Hungary. And a singer has to know the fine arts, the literature – an artist wasn’t born, but somebody becomes an artist.

 

- How this principle could be vindicated in the teaching?

 

- With my students we will visit an exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday. This museum will have centennial anniversary next year, and it’s possible, there will be concerts for them. But for such cooperations we need such partners like László Baán, the director of the museum. This is rare: everybody works for own profit… But for a young singer every possibility is important and this isn’t a “moonlighting”. In the Palace of Arts with the University of Dramatic and Cinematic Arts we realized the idea of Tamás Pál: with the title “What is the aim of the singing? What’s the opera?” we “walked around” Verdi’s Rigoletto. Everybody greeted it with enthusiasm.

 

-So the homecoming wasn’t a disappointment…

 

- I came home, because of I can see ourselves from outside and this is why I can make changes. I brought “my faithless faith”, with which I went through my career: I believe in what I do, I believe in that, there are people whom I can work. If I couldn’t believe in this, I could stay in abroad, in Hamburg, in Berlin or in America, in one of the universities…

 

- Have You met with such persons and workshops in Hungary, who and which are partners in that?

 

- Yes, the Music Academy and its wonderful president, András Batta. During our co-operation we have better and better ideas. Also Tamás Pál is excellent, whom I have an old friendship. Zoltán Rácz from the Amadinda Percussion Ensemble, Imre Kiss in the Palace of the Arts, who open the doors…

 

- Can I ask You, what kind of relationship will You have with the Hungarian State Opera?

 

- In a little while I go to the director Árpád Jutocsa Hegyi. Let’s wait – we have to give a chance. I would like to take back the opera exams in the State Opera like in the “glorious age”: when great artists participated in exams with pleasure. And the student could feel the space, the orchestra pit. And we could call the people’s attention: there is something in the air. We don’t have to hide Balázs Kovalik to Szentendre: he could come through everywhere in the world.

 

- Are You strict and unstoppable as a teacher, too?

 

- Yes, I’m strict. In the university we train soloists and to be a soloist is a rank. I don’t balk a student, if I fail him or her, but if I give a degree for an unqualified person. Both the professor and the student have to work hard for the degree. I don’t suffer the absenteeism. Everyone has to write their repertory in an exercise book – and they are surprised if I look it. I take notes in it, too. Because everyone has to feel: he or she is important – we admit him or her not for his or her loss. I would like to give this to Hungary. Why should I give to others? In this year I admitted such young talents, who will be good singers – I guarantee it. Of course, there are some impatient students, who would like to sing Der Erlkönig in the first year. It’s impossible, but I deal with it during some lessons – it will be ripen. And then the voice-doctor, Mozart could coms.

 

- It’s interesting: we don’t know You as a Mozart-singer.

 

- I sang in numerous Don Giovanni-productions. Certainly, You can’t sing Donna Anna after Turandot, these don’t comport with each other. But if I hadn’t sung Donna Anna, “In questa reggia” wouldn’t have come. This is also a responsibility: to progress step by step.

 

- How long do You plan to sing on stage? Which way do You go on as a singer?

 

- I have engagements to 2008I’ll sing my third role in the Elektra: Klytämnestra, the protagonist’s mother. I’ll give many song recitals in Spain, I like Mahler very much, in a little while I’ll sing Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. In the university I would like to realize the Franz Liszt International Summer Academy, but we have to find some supporters for it. I would like to start it on 21 august 2006 with my colleague, Kinga Széles. In Szeged there will be a summer academy also in next year and I go to Switzerland, too… I like teaching very much. I’m a honorary professor, I would like to do my habilitation in this year.

 

- Well, Eva Marton will be a significant personality of the Hungarian musical world for a long time.

 

- If I look back, sometimes I’m abashed at that, what I have reached. Through 29 years I didn’t have any summer holiday. But now I’m looking for new fields again, and now the teaching is my new challenge. For me it’s enough to urge my students to think.

 

                                                                (Fidelio – November, 2005 – Gábor Mesterházi)

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