The work is the best elixir


Many our world famous Hungarian compatriots are better known in abroad than in Hungary. Fortunately, this stereotype isn’t true in the case of the diva Eva Marton.


During her 36-year-long career she travelled through the world – and it isn’t a poetic exaggeration. Eva Marton has never sung only in one continent: in the Antarktis, although in this regard, I’m not absolutely sure of Africa, too. But that is unquestionable there isn’t any significant opera house and concert hall in our globe, in which her wonderful voice hasn’t been applauded yet. From the Metropolitan in New York to La Scala in Milano, from the Wiener Staatsoper to the Sydney Opera, from the Arena di Verona to the Covent Garden in London everywhere she had tremendous successes in the dramatic soprano roles of almost all important operas and as the partner of all great singers. The collection of her discography isn’t an easy challenge: I reached to her 53th recording together with her aria- and concert-recordings, but according to the experts a few titles is missing from this list. Eva Marton won more than 20 twenty international artistic prizes. The prestigious The New York Times chose her as The Singer of the Year for two times, as The Artist of the Year for one time, her art was honored with Kossuth Prize. She got the “Middle Cross of the Hungarian Republic with the Star” and the Mario del Monaco-Prize; she is a honorary professor of the Franz Liszt Academy-University of Music (Budapest) and – not incidentally – she is a honorary citizen of the Franzstadt (9th district of Budapest) and the artistic director of the International Opera Festival of Miskolc. Perhaps it’s enough about the prizes and the honors, maybe, it’s too much. Eva Marton, who developed from a lyric soprano to a dramatic soprano and who has been among the best opera singers for 25 years, doesn’t speak readily about these. She speaks much rather about the art, the music and the opera. And about the young generation and the fate of the Hungarian opera culture. But now, when we make this interview, we have to notice that she doesn’t speak about anything. She is under sentence of silence. This is why that this interview was made in a written form, not only regarding its end product, the published article – but let’s not run in advance!

- Despite it’s true that the Hungarian opera lovers could see and hear You in concert halls, but it’s strange that it seems, the Hungarian State Opera hasn’t fought for Your invitation. After so many years the next premier will be Your first appearance there. What could be its reason?

- I sang in the Hungarian State Opera between 1968 and 1972, since then I have lived and I have worked in abroad. In spite of my numerous engagement I offered several times I would sing gladly also at home, but I got only a few performances. I didn’t ask any fee, and if I did it, I offered it for beneficial aims, for example for the support of the Hungarian Opera of Kolozsvár (Transsylvania). Also this performance is a beneficial one, when after numerous years I sing protagonist role in a premier, in first a cast. What is this reason? Don’t ask me.

- From Wagner to Puccini, from Mozart to Bartók, from Schoenberg to Verdi and from R. Strauss to Mahler you have already sung the works of very different composers. Who and which style is the closest for You?

- It’s very difficult to summarize and because of I have had unforgettable memories and successes in the field of each composer and style, I wouldn’t like to pick up neither of them. If you insist on this, I would tell some roles. Mozart – Donna Anna in München, Verdi – Leonora in Il trovatore in La Scala in Milano, Puccini’s Tosca, Manon Lescaut and Turandot in the almost every greatest opera house of the world. The both female protagonists of R. Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten is in my repertoire: I sang the Empress in the Metropolitan in New York and the Dyer’s Wife in Salzburg Ferstival. And I didn’t mention the wonderful Judith of Bartók’sBluebeard’s Castle till now… Do I count further? Each of them is close to me; I love each of them. According to my opinion, – and I think I can state it without any immodesty – I could rise above the other singers, because I managed to find the adequate musical style and the necessary stage acting in my every role.

- You lamented in one of Your previous interviews, that the opera more and more depreciates into tourist attraction all over the world. What do You think about the existence of this tendency in Hungary?

- It’s another difficult question… This process is a part of our life. It’s natural that every country is proud of their famous “musical” buildings, which are readily shown off, from which they have considerable financial profit, too. If the opera had a share in it, we wouldn’t have any problem. Without doubt the most difficult thing is to fill these houses night by night. Of course, it it’s a problem not only in abroad, but in Hungary, too. Perhaps, I could emphasize one thought among the several possibilities, of which bud we have already seen also in Hungary, and not with bad results. Sooner or later the regular employment of the talented, young conductors and directors could lead to the refreshment of our operatic culture and also talented, but ignored singers could be prepared with sufficient professional assistance to these challenges.

- Are You an idealist?

- If you ask it so simply: Yes, I am.

- Supposedly Hungary is full with talented singers and musicians, in spite of this, only few of them could reach such a great career than Eva Marton – moreover, if we would like to be very severe: only You have managed to reach this level. What do You think, why?

- I got a special gift, the talent from the God, and it seems, I have managed to make good use of it. Perhaps, not everyone gets so much from this, but we have to appreciate the less, too.  And everyone has the duty to do his or her best, the maximum – which requires lots of work. I hope I can show a good example to my Hungarian colleagues and I can encourage them. I am proud of that I have reached this level as a Hungarian and even now I remember to a “reproach” of a Milanese in La Scala: I have only one error: I’m not Italian…

- Can You enumerate here, all of a sudden, where did You appeared in the last year?

- Maybe, I can. I was many times in Japan, as a guest artist of concert series, then in Poland, in Prague, in Madrid, in Germany and I appeared in innumerable concerts, performances and recitals.

- In the future, which is the furthest performance in Your calendar?

- In January and February of 2008: Elektra-premier.

- You are over sixty. You worked very hard till now and You work now as much as previously, too. What do You advise the women in their thirties and forties, what they should do for remain as beautiful and energetic as You.

- I have worked without any break for 36 years and I hope this will remain in the future, too. The work keeps me alive: until I will work, I’m young. Beside this I relax a lot, in a great part due to my husband, who takes a many – private and “public” – weights off my mind. I have lived a peaceful, balanced life for 39 years, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and the work gives me a great pleasure even now. What do I suggest? What I could? They have to live like me: they have to work and relax a lot and they have to do their best for the sake of the trying their place in the life, where they can reach the maximum. In everything. Both in the fields of the work and the family.

- You have a severe manager, by whom You are sentenced to silence now…

- … Well, he is really severe! Funnily I call him as a cameleer. From the very beginning my husband is my manager; today he is a retired surgeon, who has held my career since the very first moment. I think, without him I have never reached that what I have reached.

- Now I would like to ask You: what is the reason of the silence?

- The dress rehearsal of Janáček’s Jenůfa will be on this Thursday in the Hungarian State Opera, and the premier on 13 April, on Saturday – I sing the protagonist role of Kostelnička. Before a premier I never meet the press, because the talking isn’t good for the voice. Otherwise, previously I talked about the talented young opera stage directors. The Jenůfa‘s stage director, Attila Vidnyánszky is among them: it’s a pleasure to work with him.

- I know that You like the football. When and what match did You see last?

- After my husband gave up the active football-playing, I have inevitably come to like the football, too. We watch the matches together on the television, last we saw the Bayern München vs. Real Madrid, which was a drawn game because of a great error of the – otherwise – excellent German goalkeeper. The lesson: even the most excellent sportsmen and artists have to concentrate to the very last moment, because you never can be too careful.


(Photo: p. 40. Eva Marton as Gertrudis in Ferenc Erkel’s Bánk bán)


                                                                                                              Árpád Horváth

                                                                                                    (Voilà. 2004 April, p. 40-41.)