Edgar Degas, Two Studies for ‘Music Hall Singers’, 1878-1880

Singers and Voices

The mystery of melody, the thrill of a voice, from the horizon of silence, the sound: the miracle of song. Lonely, blue, fixin’ to die. Hark! The grain of a voice—intimate, immediate—bodies forth a presence: the singer is with me, restoring me to life… In this series I consider singers whose voice moves me this way.

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The lyrics are given below.


Mojca Erdmann | Photo: Felix Broede

Mojca Erdmann | Photo: Felix Broede


During the last months my voice has developed, becoming more voluminous and gaining more colours. I am very excited about this development and I am now starting to work on a more lyrical repertoire.

I could not imagine myself being a singer without the musical education that I have experienced since my earliest childhood, including intense studies of violin (I studied it in parallel to my vocal education at the University of Music in Cologne). I think it has opened a door for me to more complex repertoire, including contemporary music. Also, the voice is just our ‘tool’, but it needs musicality, emotions, understanding of the text and the phrasing that allow music to make sense and touch the listener.

Aribert Reimann

It is a huge gift for me to have very amicable and long-term connections with the great German contemporary composers Aribert Reimann and Wolfgang Rihm. I feel very honoured that I had the privilege to sing some of their world premieres that they wrote especially for me. Maybe these were the most wonderful experiences in my musical life.

Of course it has been wonderful to be singing on stages like La Scala, Bavarian State Opera, The Met or Staatsoper Berlin. But as I mentioned before, it has never been the motivation to sing at famous venues that made me want to become a professional musician, but the love for music itself.

Una voce poca fa, 28 October 2017

Wolfgang Rihm


Composer: Aribert Reimann | Voice: Mojca Erdmann | All English translations by Richard Jonathan © 2016

Odilon Redon, Anemones



In dem Traum siehst du die stillen
Fabelhaften Blumen prangen;
Und mit Sehnsucht und Verlangen
Ihre Düfte dich erfüllen.

Doch von diesen Blumen scheidet
Dich ein Abgrund tief und schaurig,
Und dein Herz wird endlich traurig,
Und es blutet und es leidet.

Wie sie locken, wie sie schimmern!
Ach, wie komm ich da hinüber?
Meister Hämmerling, mein Lieber,
Kannst du mir die Brücke zimmern?



Silent in a dream flowers
Shine fabulously before you;
With desire and nostalgia
Their scent overwhelms you.

But from these flowers an abyss
Deep and daunting separates you,
And your heart sinks into sadness,
And breaks and starts to bleed.

How they entice me, how they shimmer!
Oh, how can I cross the chasm?
Twin of Hypnos, can you help me?
Can you build me a bridge?

Johann Heinrich Füseli, The Nightmare, 1790



Du hast mich beschworen aus dem Grab
Durch deinen Zauberwillen,
Belebtest mich mit Wollustglut –
Jetzt kannst du die Glut nicht stillen.

Preß deinen Mund an meinen Mund,
Der Menschen Odem ist göttlich!
Ich trinke deine Seele aus,
Die Toten sind unersättlich.



With your magic you have called me forth
From out of my grave,
Inflamed my senses with desire—
And now the fire you cannot quell.

Press your lips to my lips,
I’ll drink up your very soul;
Mortal breath is divine,
And the dead insatiable!

Julius Klever, The Snowstorm, 1910



Die Kälte kann wahrlich brennen
Wie Feuer. Die Menschenkinder
Im Schneegestöber rennen
Und laufen immer geschwinder.

O, bittre Winterhärte!
Die Nasen sind erfroren,
Und die Klavierkonzerte
Zerreißen uns die Ohren.

Weit besser ist es im Summer,
Da kann ich im Walde spazieren,
Allein mit meinem Kummer,
Und Liebeslieder skandieren.



The cold can truly burn
Like fire. Children
Scurry in the snowstorm,
Running ever faster.

Oh, bitter winter harshness!
Noses are frozen,
And the piano’s notes
Grate on our nerves.

Much better it is in summer!
Then can I walk in the forest,
Love-sick and alone,
And softly sing love songs.

Kluge Sterne


Die Blumen erreicht der Fuß so leicht,
Auch werden zertreten die meisten;
Man geht vorbei und tritt entzwei
Die blöden wie die dreisten.

Die Perlen ruhn in Meerestruhn,
Doch weiß man sie aufzuspüren;
Man bohrt ein Loch und spannt sie ins Joch,
Ins Joch von seidenen Schnüren.

Die Sterne sind klug, sie halten mit Fug
Von unserer Erde sich ferne;
Am Himmelszelt, als Lichter der Welt,
Stehn ewig sicher die Sterne.

Intelligent Stars


Flowers are rarely out of the foot’s reach,
Most will be trampled upon;
One passes by and flowers die,
The dull as well as the daring.

Pearls dwell beneath the waves,
But we know how to find them;
Holes are bored and they’re strung on a thread,
A fine yoke of silken cord.

Stars are more intelligent, they keep their distance
From our busy world;
In the vault of heaven, shining bright,
They stand calm and eternal.

By Richard Jonathan | © Mara Marietta Culture Blog, 2017 | All rights reserved