Elektra with a kneepad

Published

She received us on Easter Sunday. She forgot that we have to set the clock back one hour, so she couldn’t sleep enough for two reasons. I thought our interview would be very short. I was mistaken. Out of her four days in Hungary she gave one to the press with pleasure. Her husband and manager, Dr. Zoltán Marton was with us all along. I don’t have to introduce him, because everybody knows him like her world famous wife, but both of them always can say a lot of new things. Our following meeting will take place in a tennis court, because they challenged us for a match. I have been in training since that time because I wouldn’t like to fail…

 

- Does a singer feel the moment when she or he becomes an artist?

- No! You don’t care for this. In the beginning of my career I was enthralled by my voice, then I was enthralled by that what was happened with me: I got to a fantastic milieu from the weekdays.

- You sing Turandot with such great feeling that You shed tears. What do You feel when You are in tears?

- I don’t weep. These feelings come from a special part of my brain, not from my heart. It’s only a proverb that these are sounds from the heart. Everything springs in the mind, even the feelings, too. I truly sing with the maximum feeling, I give up myself for the feelings of the role, what I portray. Turandot touches me as a woman, she is in tears not I. Otherwise, the weeping is always a great relief and the women usually weep more than the men. We have more feelings and we can show these easier.

- Have Your ever cried?

- János Szilágyi asked me it in a party several years ago. I answered: Yes, please, I cried yesterday evening, because the war broke out in Serbia. I saw the women and the children, who were hacked to pieces. I was alone in the hotel and I started crying. Not because of me, but because of others. Yes, I also cry, although nothing happened in my life, for which I should cry.

- How it is possible?

- Of course, the loss of a parent or a friend makes you cry. But really, I don’t cry hysterically.

- This means that You have never been aggrieved by nobody, that You would have felt sorrow for Yourself.

- No, because I have never allowed anybody to get close to me that he or she could offend me.

- Don’t You have any friend?

- I could count in one hand, how many friends I have. I have got very much good acquaintances, who are very close to me, but rather they are such angels, who help us everywhere in the world, where I go. With my best girl friend we have a 25-year-long friendship. She isn’t in my profession; she works in a completely different field.

- Do You need a friend at all?

- Very much. Everybody needs. But for example I don’t talk with her if I have a problem in my marriage.

- Your horoscope is Twins.

- I’m not interested in such things. No one could tell me, what kind of personality I have. I know and I form my personality myself. I know also that if I gave only myself on the stage, as I am in the private life, I would be a very bad artist.

- During the talking I feel that You are more inhibited and more reserved than on the stage.

- I’m not inhibited, I have never been that. I think those are inhibited persons who don’t know their limits in their human relationships, in their work or in their life as a woman. Well, you have to know the limits in every field of life and you mustn’t offend the human dignity! Neither I, nor any other person can do it. I defend myself in that way that I don’t allow anybody to get close to me. I’m usually told that I’m unattainable. You have to ask my family what characteristics I have. You could get acquainted with a completely different side of me.

- Surely You are softer with them.

- I laugh and joke with them and the old memories return. The family was together yesterday. The mother of Zoltán, his brother, my daughter and some children from the other family. We listened Gräfin Mariza, because my mother-in-law likes it very much. She is 79 years old and she sung the complete operetta by heart. I reflected on that the brains of many people suffer in brain calcification in such an age. Imagine, she sang the most difficult duets, even the male roles, too. I asked her: how do you know it? She answered: Even if I forget it, I know it, too.

- Does the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law like each other?

- We have been always in a very good relationship.

- Favored by whom?

- I had to do something for the good relationship, as well as we have to do something for everything. To get to know well the other, her problems. We lived together through six years in a flat. We shared a bathroom and a kitchen.

- How do You call her?

- Valérka, Valika.

- Is she proud of You?

- I’m sure! She saw me many times on stage. She was in Milano, in Hamburg, in Frankfurt, in New York with us. Now, at last time we couldn’t take her with us in Washington. We had several rehearsals, I had suspected before that I couldn’t walk with her and also I couldn’t go to the street because of the wind or the rain. I can’t concentrate on other things, when I have serious rehearsals.

- According to the horoscope the Twins are very clever…

- Ask my husband!

- In Your profession not the cleverness is the prime viewpoint. Or am I mistaken?

- You are mistaken. There aren’t stupid singers now. You always put something to Your knowledge. For me it’s very important not only to reproduce the art, but to add something to it. So that judgment is false that the place of the opera is the museum. I could make an opera current with modern feelings and my thoughts, which I take into the work. If I hadn’t do this, I would be an absolute nonentity.

- Let’s return to the cleverness! I believe that you do certain things with mind, but many things are suggested by the feeling and the sixth sense.

- I think there is a born intelligence, what we got from our parents and our grandparents. If it exists, it is hidden in our genes and it’s a very great gift. It means that you can reach a career without many learning. If a born intelligence is combined with an intelligence acquired by learning, it’s the very best. The other thing, which I think it’s very important, the creativity. So if you do something in your life, if you create something, you are creative. The creativity can manifest itself in your hobbies, too. If you have a little talent-gene and what you create, it’s delightful for the others, in that case somewhat a special beauty comes into existence.

- When we met at least five years ago, You told me that to make a statement to the journalists is a work.

- What seems easy on the stage, but putting the thoughts into words is very difficult.

- What did You feel when You heard: You will receive the Kossuth Prize?

- Yesterday a businessman of Hungarian descent, the honorary consul of Monte Carlo called me from Rome. He was very kind. He told me: “I congratulate on receiving the Kossuth Prize. It was easy and natural to give you, because you are a world star.”

- But it would be natural before long ago, doesn’t it?

- No, no, it doesn’t. I think the Kossuth Prize requires real results, results of many-many years. The rank of the prize must be given. I didn’t expect it and I was touched very much. I heard it in Washington.

- It seems You aren’t a prophet in your own country… Your own country and Your own opera house wasn’t so warmhearted to You some time ago.

- Since many years I have got over these things. And moreover, I feel that I estimate all negative things, what I suffered in my career, as positive things now. I don’t like if I’m praised beyond measure. In such cases I become suspicious, because – like the others – I’m not perfect, I commit errors, too.

- The acknowledgement can stimulate if it’s sincere. Can You discern if someone lies?

- Of course, but I don’t reveal it. It’s enough that I know it.

- Have you ever lied?

- Only in such cases, when I had to do this, but not in a way, which could deserve imprisonment. I would rather tell it as a white lie, when I don’t tell the truth, because I don’t like to give pain.

- Do You give advise without asking?

- No more. But I couldn’t be happier when somebody takes my advice and it proves good. It’s a stupendous pleasure. I also take the advices, but I always weigh if it’s true, if it’s good.

- Do You still listen to the advisers after so many years?

- Well, my career started 29 years ago. You could think that you can overcome difficulties easier in the process of time, but it’s wrong. I think I have some good years, I can sing perhaps five-six years. I don’t like more. I would like to retire from the stage.

- How can a singer secede from his or her profession?

- I haven’t known it yet, because all goes well now.

- It’s possible to tell a singer that he or she should retire? I think an artist would come to hate that person forever.

- I don’t think it, but I have never felt hate in the private life.

- Don’t You know what the hate means?

- I know it, because I have leant it from Elektra, but I have never used it in the life. I have never needed it.

- What is this terrible, stone-hard swelling in your left leg?

- It’s a memory of a great accident. It was happened on the stage, as Elektra I had to die. In such cases I don’t look, where and how I fall.

- 29 years aren’t enough for You to take care of Yourself?

- No and now it isn’t worth it. Although I have many duties, my calendar is full to 2000. I will return to the Metropolitan, where I haven’t sung for many years. Those people, who loved me and whom I loved, wait me very much.

- What will You feel when You arrive there?

- I don’t know now, but I will tell you.

- Are You often touched?

- Of course. I look around on the stage and I say: I’m at home again, because I feel myself at home in that moment.

- How long haven’t You sung in the Metopolitan?

- For seven-eight years. I will return with Turandot.

- Have You been reconciled to the Met?

- Of course, it’s a grief for me what led to our breaking-off in times past: you thought that you are a star there and a bigger power comes and pushes you into the background. Our, Hungarians, we can’t bow, because our backbone breaks in such cases. I decided not to return there never more. But now, when they invited me, I couldn’t do that. Otherwise, I’m not the first singer, with whom similar cases happened. It was happened with many singers from Callas to Shicoff. Neil Shicoff didn’t sing there through 8 years, too.

- How do You follow the events in the world with attention?

- I wouldn’t like to politicize, because it isn’t my duty, but I regularly read newspapers and listen to the radio. I’m convinced very much that we have to react to the changing of the world. Like in your work, because you utilize all the information, what you picked up previously. Recently in the Elektra – during 24 days I sang it in seven performances in Washington – I met with an English stage director, with whom I never worked before. We couldn’t look each other for many hours. I have to react in no time. He is a typical theoretical person and he didn’t know what he would like in the practice. So I played some variation and he chose that one which was fit into his conception in the best manner. And the result was wonderful!

- According to the photos, Elektra isn’t famous for her beauty.

- It was really happened that one of our dear acquaintances came to us after a performance and he told he didn’t recognize me. He was invited to us for a dinner two days before and as a housewife I tried to show my very best form. As Elektra everything is disadvantageous in me. A Hungarian journalist, who lives in abroad, noticed it’s astonishing for him that someone dares to come to the stage in high shoes, in black clothes and in elongated knitted sweater and she is the Elektra. I didn’t get other clothes. I had to accept that, I have to be Elektra in this way, too. It makes no difference what I wear. I have to form Elektra by heart, with great feelings.

- How has Eva Marton changed in the recent years?

- I have changed very much, but the bases have remained the same. I believe in the forming power of the art.

- Aren’t You too idealistic?

- I’m rather very realistic. Of course, I have dreams; I always set myself new aims. The dreams are necessary.

- Do You read in Hungarian?

- I read Sándor Márai and Áron Tamási now. I returned to the old great Hungarian writers. I know that I’ll read Kálmán Mikszáth again, too.

- What kind of relationship do You have with the press?

- It’s good. We need each other very much. We live on each other, we help each other and we give information and documents to each other.

- I know that You don’t talk about your benefit performances, but I can’t refrain myself from asking this question.

- I really don’t like to talk about it, because it’s repulsive for me, when it’s used for sales promotion. But I’m convinced that I have to help. Where I can, I appear.

- In our last meeting You were happier, now You are sager and more sad a little bit.

- Everything depends on the questioner. You have to seek it in own yourself. I think you are too earnest. The other person is always the mirror image of you.

- Dear me! I’m not sad, I’m just curious, for example I’m eager to know: why do You say after so many years that “I would like to realize it”?

- I would like to sing Isolde and Elektra in Budapest for the Hungarian audience, but all doors are closed. My dreams? Perhaps that: to live in that way like till now. But I’m sure I wouldn’t like to restart. Always those persons would like to restart, who weren’t happy. But I’m happy.

- You would like to say that if you were 20, wouldn’t you choose this way?

- If I met again with Zoltán, I would choose this.

 

 

Eva Marton and György Melis give an aria- and duet-concert in the Music Academy on 24 April at half past 7. Eva Marton sings the title role of La Gioconda on 9 May in the Hungarian State Opera.

 

 

                                              The husband’s interruption

 

In a little while I’ll go to Hamburg to seek a flat, because Eva has got a four-month-long contract there – the husband, Dr. Zoltán Marton interrupts the conversation. – She will sing in two great productions: in Lohengrin and in Jenůfa . She will sing Janáček‘s opera for the first time: she has to learn it in Czech language, what is a very difficult work. The leader of the Bayerische Rundfunk’s musical department is a conductor of Czech descent and he helps for my wife. We prepare for a great and beautiful concert in Budapest, too.

- Is it a secret?

- Yes, the place and the program are surprise. And I finance two recordings, Schönberg’s Erwartung and Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder.

- When I heard that You worked in the Interconcert, I immediately thought that how long would you stand it?

- I was there through four years and I have learnt very much there. I have got to know the Hungarian cultural life, the level and the problems. I finished, because if you would like to help, you need support. If in spite of this your plans are thwarted…Now I help for some colleagues of Eva – of course, for the better ones. I do it amicably, I don’t ask anything for it, because it’s a great pleasure and a great thing if Csaba Airizer, László Polgár, Kolos Kováts or András Molnár could sing in abroad…

- I don’t know any other world star, who cares for such things.

- I have always endeavored to enhance Hungary’s reputation through Eva and to inscribe our names upon the pages of the operatic history. I have loved the opera very much since my early childhood, but I have never thought that I would be so close to this world. I’m very glad that it was like this. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

- I think that the first 10 years were difficult.

- It’s always more and more difficult. Eva is an astonishingly right person. She is almost pathologically idealistic, what is sometimes needed to cut, because the life is different. She flies and I accompany her in the ground.

 

                                                                                                            Éva Körmöczy

 

Captions:

p. 31. Eva Marton in the Washington National Opera

p. 32. As Elektra in Barcelona in 1991

p. 34. As Elektra in London in 1994

p. 25. After an Elektra-performance in Washington with the artistic director of the Washington National Opera, Placido Domingo

 

 

                                       Interview extracts from Washington

 

Eva Marton sang the title role of Elektra in Washington a short time ago. A journalist of The Washington Opera, Nancy Tague made an exclusive interview with her on this occasion. We publish some extracts from it.

 

- The first word, what came to my mind about Elektra, was: alone. This word gives the impression of the feeling of freedom at first, but after that there are the stubborn facts, the all anguishes of the solitude. This role takes me to such depths, what I didn’t reach previously. My first meeting with Elektra was in 1989. The Greek heroine has lined up behind Tosca, Turandot and Gioconda. Everybody told me I’m too young to this role. But I wished to change. After many lyrical heroines I had a desire for a drama.

- So when the Wiener Staatsoper asked me to sing this role, You immediately said yes.

- Of course, the first step was the music. The most difficult period: to learn the role. I spent many days together with the score. I searched the key to the music of Richard Strauss, the unusual consonances, the strange intervals and motives. When I felt at home in the music, with my vocal master I became more and more immersed in the work, in the text and in the characters, too. Then I went up to the stage with Harry Kupfer and I forgot everything. We went through only two pages in an afternoon.

- With Harry Kupfer You worked 8 hours daily through 5 weeks, searching the every secret of the role and the story. Although you didn’t had such a hard work previously, the work freshened You.

- My husband attended the rehearsals with a little worry. Once he asked me: “What was happened with you? My Eva, you have changed. You play a role all day long.”

- You became so workaholic that You didn’t care for Your hairdressing and the clothing, You were negligent of Your make-up.

- And I didn’t know it. I didn’t perceive this changing. I learnt very much from Harry Kupfer. The most important thing, what he told me, was the following: “Before you do anything, you have to decide, what kind of character you have to form. There isn’t any possibility to show the complete person. You have to decide: you become a woman, who suffers a lot or a beast, who offends others. Then each night you have to go along in this way.”

- After the premier of the Wiener Staatsoper this production directed by Kupfer was performed in the Salzburg Festival (with the same cast), in Stuttgart and in Wien again. Your portrayal was highly praised everywhere by the critics. In 1990 You sang Elektra in London, under the baton of Sir Georg Solti, in a new production of Götz Friedrich. You knew Friedrich’s work system very much. You bought training shoes, a tracksuit and a kneepad in Your first day of London. You wore these in the first rehearsal. When Friedrich caught sight of You, he laughed. He knew that You are ready for the hard rehearsal.

- When the rehearsals started, I didn’t do anything. Friedrich didn’t laugh by this time: “Why don’t you work? Why didn’t you bring anything?” – he asked me. I answered: “If I do anything now, it isn’t mine, but it’s Harry Kupfer’s.” I asked Friedrich, what he thinks about the Elektra. I had known that she directed a famous Elektra-film. “I’m sure that you wouldn’t like to do the same on the stage.” It was effective.

- As the result of your common work You were nominated for the Sir Laurence Olivier Award.

- Harry Kupfer and Götz Friedrich were my professional parents. They had known about me that I am able to play something in different ways…When I go to the stage, I transform myself into the role. I try to be in the shoes of the role. It’s interesting that I change: I become not only a singer, but an actress-singer, too. Thanks to God, I bear the burden well. I’m in a good form after so many years, too. My voice is intact, my body is strong. I bear more and more.

- Returning to the Elektra, the most difficult thing for You was that, according to Your role You have to hate Your own mother. It’s difficult to play it genuinely for a kind-hearted woman.

- Then Ayatollah Khomeini came to my mind. Once I read about his exile in Paris. He always had a photo of the shah, whom he hated passionately. He didn’t have other things than a bed, a chair, a table and this picture. He hung up facing his bed to see the shah from morning till night. So he always remembered his ardent hate. This feeling is very far from me. When you hate somebody, you use up your every energy. This is an immense loss! I recognized the parallel between the ayatollah’s story and the Elektra’s life, which is led by the hate. So it was enough for me to recall the character of Khomeini. 

- You didn’t work previously with Elijah Moshinsky, the stage director of the new production of Elektra in theWashington National Opera.

- I’m like a white paper. The director writes that on it, what he would like. This is the most, what I can give him.

- The conductor of this production is Heinz Fricke, with whom You had many great performances in Germany. The meeting of Richard Strauss’s music and Hofmannstahl’s tragedy gifted marvelous moments both to the audience and the artists. You would face further challenges with pleasure in the role of Elektra. You would like to discover other characteristics and further depths in the role and You would like to share these with the audience, too.

- I think this is one of the most tragic opera. It’s an ancient Greek story, which could happen today or tomorrow, too. The text of Hofmannstahl and its every word is wonderful. The music isn’t easy, but for me it’s marvelous. I would like, something could awake in the people, when they see me on the stage and when they leave the theater. In their heart. Or in their mind. Something… Some moments, which are unforgettable.

 

                                                                                 (Képes Európa. April 16, 1997, p. 31-35.)

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Képes Európa