(Photo from EddaMoser.com )
Even if you have never heard of the German soprano Edda Moser (and that’s OK; I don’t really keep track of sopranos myself, and I’m in the business), if you are a singer you really should read this interview she gave to Lars von der Gönna recently for the Westdeutche Allgemeine Zeitung. I don’t know if I am allowed to post this in translation but I found it so good that it deserves to be read by English-speaking singers as well. So, for now, here it is. Pass it on as you see fit. Die deutsche sopranistin Edda Moser hat neulich ein Interview gegeben, die sehr informativ und lesenswert ist. Ich empfehle, daß jeder Sänger diesen Artikel lese. Deutschsprachige Leser können gleich zum WAZ Link für die Originalfassung.
This is a lovely garden.
EM: I think so too. We see deer down there in the morning, when I go out onto the balcony after my gymnastics.
You do gymnastics?
EM: Of course! Every morning. I can show you afterward.
Many of your records are currently being reissued. You’re very present in the media. That’s not a given these days.
EM: True. I think that I’m enjoying more attention than I did during my time on the stage.
Because you were not a diva?
EM: Well, I was never sick, I was married, I was never involved in any scandals. Some become legends because they cancel so many times. I went my own way, without making problems. By the way, that’s also the reason I left my husband. He said, “You have to be in the newspapers every day.” But I was only interested in the work. The grace, to be allowed to sing those wonderful roles.
Many of your performances are legendary — above all your Queen of the Night, which contained more than sparkle and coloratura.
EM: Coloratura? I opened my mouth and it was there. But a role like that is so much more. I always prepared myself physically for roles. One has to do that. It doesn’t even occur to most, unfortunately. If I say to my students, “You have to be able to touch your palms to the floor while standing”, they say “For God’s sake, I can’t even reach down to my knees!”. At some point I gave up. (offering candy) YOu have to try this, it’s absolutely sinful. From Italy!
Almond cookies? Terrific!
EM: Yes! Aren’t they marvelous?
You’ve said, “One has to remain at the bottom.” What does that mean?
EM: You have to ground yourself. We live here on Earth, I’ve always sung “grounded”. I try to pass that on to young singers, but it shocked them too much. They don’t understand that one first begins to learn this profession while standing on the stage. I’ve said to them, “Heed my warnings, at least a couple of them. Humility! Discipline! Keep quiet!” You can forget it, no one listens. Some, after they were miserably stranded, came to me later and said, “You were right.” Too late.
To keep quiet — for many years you only wrote what you wanted to say, avoided the telephone — all to keep your voice healthy.
EM: Yes, it was like that. When one sings as a profession, it demands a certain exclusivity. One gets lonely, and it stays that way. There isn’t anything else. On the other hand, I think: it should be that way for many things that one does seriously and dedication.
Did you make sacrifices willingly?
EM: Oh, sometimes I would have gladly participated. Laughing and gossiping. It was simply taboo to really celebrate. I never went to parties. Although I was pretty fetching, as a young singer I was good looking.
You speak directly about the dark side of the opera business.
EM: It could make you cry. Christmas is some hotel in America. Much acclaim at a New Years Eve performance in Vienna, a great pleasure, a lot of fun onstage. Then one minute in (Cafe) Sacher: a good-luck pig, a good-luck penny, a glass of water and then back to the hotel. Over. Done. But it only worked through this kind of discipline. I had some of the most beautiful experiences of my life through singing. For me, it really was a holy art.
So holy and serious, that you wanted to take your life, when a role was taken away from you.
EM: Fidelio in Salzburg! Gewandhausorchester, Kurt Masur. A dream. It was all planned. And then I happened to find out that I was out. Masur deceived me. It was awful. Only the thought of my mother kept me from killing myself.
When you ended your career with a grand “Salome” in Vienna, what was it like for you afterwards?
EM: First it was like death. You are simply gone. The telephone doesn’t ring anymore, no one calls. You are nobody. The sadness is indescribable. And then some idiots come along and say, “But now you’re a professor of singing.” They have nothing to do with one another. It’s the opposite. As a singer you have to be the most egotistic person, and not give a damn about anything but yourself. And when you’re the teacher, you stand completely in the background.
In your career, what did you see as a gift, and what did you see as work?
EM: The work was a gift! Sure, I had the talent. But 98% is work; genius is industry.Don’t think now that I consider myself a total genius. But when I look back, I think: there was genius to my fearlessness. My faith in God was there too.
Why are German singers underrepresented in the world’s opera houses?
EM: Much too much theory. They have to practice a lot more. Vocal training! Sometimes I miss this “I want!”. A singer needs that. When one shows up at the theater sloppily dressed, one doesn’t get past the doorman. I once sang for an agent who started reading his mail while I was singing. I stopped and said, “I’ll wait. Finish reading your mail, and then I’ll continue.” I thought, he damned well ought to listen to me. No one dares (speak up) today.
Is that your advice? : Have courage!
EM: Absolutely. But that only works when one sings well. You have to hear yourself with the ears of your enemies. And I want to give my enemies as little pleasure as possible.
Was there a perfect performance for you?
EM: Yes, there was. Beethoven “Missa Solemnis” with Giulini. Or the St. Matthew Passion with Karl Richter. One knew then, the sky’s the limit!
Was it on the stage that you felt the greatest feeling?
EM: For me, absolutely yes! My eroticism, my believe in true love, that all happened on the stage. We were all in love with each other onstage, Gedda, Pavarotti, Domingo. Oh, Domingo, what a voice, this dark gold! And how he comforted me, when I argued with stage directors. We dined together just recently, when he was here to sing at the Loreley [an open-air arena in Germany].
Speaking of food: you’ve cooked here at your house for Helmut Kohl.
EM: Yes, an underrated man, because he was a great subject for caricature. But what instinct! Very cultured, very humourous. Actually quite modest. Completely insecure with women.
The Queen of the Night, and a politician whose favorite singer was Hans Albers. How did that work?
EM: Kohl knew relatively little about music, he went gamely to festival concerts, found them very nice. But Brahms was a closed book for him, he didn’t even know Schubert’s “Erl King”. I played it for him — and he listened. He was always curious, that was one of his great strengths.
Why are tenors so much more admired than sopranos?
EM: At the Vienna State Opera, tenors are even addressed as “maestro”. It is, if you will, the most unnatural form of singing. Tenors get the highest salaries, I am alright with that. As their partner onstage, even I was intoxicated by these voices.
Anna Netrebko is celebrated all over the world as a soprano star. What’s your view on your colleague from St. Petersburg?
EM: A really wonderful voice. But she’s simply not a lady, that’s her failing. She lacks a certain distance to the public — she brings the art across but not the femininity. If she had this “grandezza”, she would be one of the greatest. This pop-star allure is simply a shame.
And opera stage direction these days?
EM: I can only condemn it. Above all Katharine Wagner. What possibilities she has in Bayreuth — and makes such filth! Meistersinger as painters, I can only laugh at that. I get the impression that she has no fire in her, she is only mocking. She is arrogant. And the result is boring. Please write that!
Frau Moser, one last, rather indiscreet question; what does one sing, when one forgets the text?
EM: Lalala. Simple. No one notices — you just have to do it expressively!