Inside and Outside


Nobody has ever heard me, he thinks and staggers out.
He sees a mouth in the moonlight, the mouth is open, the mouth is open, the mouth is singing.
The mouth is silent.

„Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust!“ (‚Wandering ist he miller’s delight‘) – did he not sing that once? At the time when he still believed, loved and hoped. No, now wandering is compulsion, the pace is no longer playful, but remorseless, the eighths oft he piano strictly intent on getting on. Spring is merely a memory, hardly a song in which there is no talk of snow, wind or ice. And the wanderer’s emotions freeze parallel to the weather.

He speaks to his beloved for the last time (‚damit du mögest sehen, an Dich hab ich gedacht‘[‚so that you may see I have thought of you‘]), then he loses all contact to civilization – and only at the very end, in his very last sentence, will he speak to a human again, the hurdy-gurdy man, with whom a new journey might commence. On the way we also hear the wanderer’s direct speech, but it is directed at the stream, the town, the leaves, the crow, the dogs, the walking-staff and the three suns. His desperate attempts to find answers to his questions even go inside him, he appeals to his tears and even to his heart in three songs. And suddenly, after about half the distance, he steps entirely out of his world and turns to his audience, like an actor departing from his role: ‚Ihr lacht wohl über den Träumer, der Blumen im Winter sah?‘ (‚Are you laughing at the dreamer who beheld flowers in winter?‘).
The context, the mutual conditioning of inner and outer tempo, has probably never before or since been as convincingly composed as in the 24 songs of the Winterreise. Between the opposing views as to whether emotion determines the tempo or whether the tempo evokes a feeling, Schubert opted fort he narrowest conceivable middle course for his wanderer. In exactly half the songs the pace is given by the different walking speeds, in six songs external factors determine the tempo, and in six songs it is caused by emotions:
Walking speed
I.Wandering, III.Slowing down, IV.Searching restlessly, VIII.Fleeing and stumbling, IX.Going dowhill carefully, X.Tottering with fatigue, XII.Dragging himself, XIV.Waking up and forcing himself to walk, XVI.Straying, XIX.Dancing, XX.Wandering, XXII.Defiantly forwards
Inner tempo
VI.First pause, VII.Heartbeat, XI.Dream-reality-wish, XVII.Uneasy listening, XXI.Desperate dream song, XXIII.Solemn contemplation
Outer tempo
II.Wind, V.Leaves rustling, XIII.Posthorn signal, XV.Wings beating, XVIII.Storm, XXIV. Hurdy-gurdy
To cite only two instances of how subtly and simultaneously compellingly Schubert proceeds:
‚Gute Nacht‘ and ‚Der Wegweiser‘ have the same metre (2/4), the same tempo indication (Moderate) and the same continuous eighths movement – yet it occurs automatically that, after the long journey, the wanderer (and with him the singer) no longer hast he verve and the energy of the beginning and the tempo becomes slower.
Another example ist he tempo bracket above Songs IV to VI; thus, the hectically searching eighth triplets of ‚Erstarrung‘ turn into the rustling sixteenth triplets at the beginning of the ‚Lindenbaum‘, and the dreamy, resigned eighth triplets in the accompaniment oft he final stanza correspond to the sweeping ones at the beginning of ‚Wasserflut‘.

Flows clearly and evenly, as if snow were hidden behind the eye and slowly melting.

Back to the wanderer and his freezing emotions; once the exile has embarked on his journey, there is rustling, melting and flowing in all the songs until ‚Rückblick‘, the stream and the river are still the symbols oft he suffering man’s emotions, there is movement in memory at least. But in the ‚Irrlicht‘, there is only a dried up river bed and then nothing – only paths, roads and finally wasteland. Now it is winter, the last friendly touch of green flashes up in the dream of spring, then everything is black and white. In the second half, colours only appear three times, but all the more significantly, as signs of death: the colourful falling leaves (XVI), the red flames in the sky (XVIII) and ultimately the green wreaths (XXI).
But death will not come, however much the fatigued wanderer yearns for it – he is still young and his journey is long not over. Escape into madness does not succeed either, although he would choose this turning in three songs (IX, XVI, XIX), if he only could. Worse still: at the end he sees more clearly than ever before himself, his way and the absurdity of wanting to escape from the anguish of his love.
Love ist he third sun from the triumvirate of fate – love – and hope and does not wish to perish.
He lost his faith at the outset and confirms this shortly before the end by defiantly putting himself in God’s place (XXII); he buries hope under tears (XVI) and says his final farewell, for ‚ich bin zu Ende mit allen Träumen‘ (‚all my dreams are over‘).
The love for his faithless girl, however, his miller’s daughter, who is now another’s bride, will give him – whether he likes it or not – the light and the energy for his further journey.

A signpost to himself, but with arms turned down.
Showing somewhere into himself.
After ‚My Anguish‘ 2 miles

Translated by Ian Mansfield
The quotations derive from the novel Wedding Worries by Stig Dagerman, 1949

“You must always take the characters seriously”


Daniel Ender: Mr. Eröd, the history of your family is repeatedly connected to the tragedies of the 20th century. To what extent is your background relevant for you?

Adrian Eröd: It plays a role in the respect that I am probably more sensitised by the history of my family, above all my father’s history, than others from my generation. Because for me it is not just something I have learnt at school. What we all know in the meantime, all that has to be said was never a subject at home, but I was aware of it: The former recollection is that that my father had come to Austria from Hungary in the year 1956. The fact that a part of his family, amongst them his older brother, was killed in the concentration camps, was picked out as a central theme only later, but was never treated as a big Memento Mori. It was simply a fact. I am more sensitised there, but I would not say that it affects my everyday life.

D. E.: In the course of this year’s Wiener Festwochen you sing the song cycle “Schwarzerde” (to poems by Ossip Mandelstam) by your father Iván Eröd.

A. E.: The fact that I may do this is a great pleasure for me. I have sung some of his music as yet, but rather in recitals on a smaller scale. When I sing a piece, however, it makes no difference whether it was written by my father or by someone else. I do not learn it more exactly or more negligently or with more emotion. But regarding the circumstances, it is definitely something special – also the fact, that it is one of his serious works: He is known rather as a “lighter” composer, friendly to the audience. Only a few notice the fact that there are some deeper and darker works of him, because he presents himself not as a closed, grouchy person, but rather amenable and happy.

D. E.: Has the profession of your father affected your development?

A. E.: Probably, but never consciously. It all started with my mother. She worked as an assistant director in the Graz Opera: Because there was a director who was not able to speak German, she worked as his interpreter, being native of France. For a scenic version of Prokofiev’s “Ivan the terrible” they needed a boy to play the role of Dmitri, the son. I was aged eleven, and my mother asked me if I was interested; that’s how I came to the opera. Then I was in the children’s choir, sung Solo parts, and thus I caught the theatre-virus. There was always music around me, but this was rather a matter of course than a mission. This came only later, because I wanted to act rather than to make music. With eighteen I did spoken theatre, it was not decided for me then, whether I would become a singer or an actor. Important for me was being onstage. Of course I am glad now that it has developed towards singing.

D. E.: How did it happen then, that your education focused on Lied?

A. E.: It was not so central at all. At that time there was no specialisation during the first four years of basic studies. Then I was also in the opera class. Of course Walter Berry was an influential teacher, therefore Lied and oratorio came to the fore. I completed my degree in the Lied class and not in opera. Not even then did the Lied dominate; and I earned my first wages as an opera singer. The first engagements began at the end of my studies in the Vienna Kammeroper, and then I sang Billy Budd with the Neue Oper Wien. The fact that the Lied was more present during the studies, however, was good, because later, when you are a member of an opera company, you don’t have so much time anymore to deal with it.

D. E.: The Lied has remained important for you — which is not self-evident for opera singers.

A. E.: That’s right. For me it is very important that I have the balance between opera and podium. The emphasis and the demands are absolutely different, and at the same time it is very important because singing Lieder benefits the opera singing – and vice versa. I always try to keep it balanced, even though the pendulum often swings in favour of the opera – mostly for profane reasons. Since the opera is my main employer, this is the base.

D. E.: Which virtues can a Lied-singer bring to the opera? Diction?

A. E.: Yes, although is equally important in both areas, actually.

D. E.: In the Lied it hurts even more if it is neglected.

A. E.: It causes me pain in the opera, too. Maybe it is tolerated more often, however it is as important. During the work on the Meistersinger I realized that Thielemann — like Muti rehearsing Cosi — is working almost exclusively on the text. All his musical wishes arise logically out of this work. But it is evident that one can focus more on the voice and the words in the Lied — without hiding behind costume and orchestra —, not just clarity but also interpretation, because one must work on nuances and colours — this benefits the opera singing. It is of course a much more delicate work than in the opera. Conversely “enjoying ones own voice” as my teacher called it, is something that could easily get lost if one is singing only Lied. Just singing and enjoying the sound (including  the orchestral sound) — this is something you only get in the opera: and there is also the exhibitionistic part that the audience expects and wants to a certain degree. This benefits the Lied.

D. E.: You mentioned Meistersinger, where you performed the role of Beckmesser in the Vienna State Opera. What is your opinion of this character?

A. E.: He is definitely no comedian. Taken to extremes, he is the tragic figure of this opera, because he is a pigheaded eccentric for reasons we do not know. His invidiousness emerges from his desperation and not because he is a bad person. Actually, he has to take much more than he dished out, he gets thwacked by David without any reason but a misunderstanding, and what Sachs does to him in the third act is not exactly a pleasantry either. Like the major Moliere characters that are not funny in themselves, he is a comic because of the situations he gets into. The whole story makes no sense if Beckmesser cannot be taken seriously as a competitor for Walther from the very beginning. If he is only ridiculous from the outset, this is not just problematic, but simply wrong. He could not be the town chronicler and Merker if he were not a refined person. However, the tradition of playing him as a buffoon is decreasing anyway. But Wagner made it also quite clear that Beckmesser is the “foreign” who has to be eliminated to use the later diction. Undoubtedly he had this in his mind, because Beckmesser is equipped with all the anti-Semitic prejudices of the time, in his character, his text, as well as musically. This is a fact. But it is no use to emphasize this in an inappropriate context.

D. E.: I felt it even more touching in this traditional setting that one could commiserate with your Beckmesser.

A. E.: I once learned something very important from a director: No matter, what character you play, you have to defend it. As a singer and actor I can be ridiculous because the character is but I must never show the audience:  ”Look, this character is ridiculous”. In this moment I would betray it. Even if it is a funny character, you always have to take it seriously.

D. E.: Due to your Fach you have represented mainly lyrical and comic parts — but there were also some very serious ones like the title character in Wolfgang Rihm’s Jakob Lenz. Which other roles were or are important for you?

A. E.: I am very glad that I will sing Pelleas again in the next season, and I hope that also Billy Budd will come again. But in my case there are not so many serious roles. I really loved singing Jakob Lenz, but this was also an extreme example. This opera is so strong and has everything in it: from the introspective to the complete manic. This is a fantastic challenge. You learn a lot doing it. However, I am not trying to bring my own abysmal depths into the part, because I see myself more as a craftsman than a Method Actor. No matter how tragic the character is, or how desperate the situation, I have to keep control in every moment. I would not be able to do so, if I drown completely into the character of the part. While singing, you never know what happens. If you notice for example, that the voice gets tired, you have to be able to retain control on the singing.

D. E.: In June you participate in a new production of the State Opera: Strauss’ Capriccio in which you sing the part of Olivier.

A. E.: I have sung this part already in Linz. The main attraction this time is the team: the fact that Renee Fleming is coming back to Vienna makes all of us happy. Apart from that we are almost en famille, with Angelika Kirchschlager, Michael Schade and Bo Skovhus. The opera itself is something quite special. I really like it, and there is a certain tradition in Vienna about it, but it is not an easy piece at all. The text is quite sophisticated and the music is not Rosenkavalier. Except for the moonlight music at the end it is a dialogue piece thoroughly …

D. E.: … and sometimes considered problematic because of its date of origin in 1942.

A. E.: Of course it is very top-heavy; in the political circumstances of the time you can consider it problematic, because it was a certain kind of denial tactics for Strauss to sit in his house and write a piece like this, while all the tragedies happened around. Vice versa you could go much further and ask whether it is generally important, what we do on the stage, whether it effects  the „real life” — however, I don’t want to go that far, because I don’t think, this is part of our job. We are not on stage to change the world.