Vita Marie-Thérèse Escribano (English)
I was born in Paris and I grew up in Madrid, where I studied music at the "Real Conservatorio" (my mother was Belgian, and my father Spanish). After my parents' early deaths I went to Belgium. There I graduated from the Bruxelles Conservatoire. Around that time, I was lucky enough to see a performance by the ensemble of the Vienna Opera: Maria Reining, Sena Jurinac, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Irmgard Seefried, Paul Schöfler, Anton Dermota, Erich Kunz and other equally accomplished singers. I was enthused and decided to go to Vienna, the city where this perfection and charm originated. In 1955, after passing the entrance exam, I was admitted to the Viennese University of Music and Performing Arts (then still called Academy).
Initially I wanted to pursue a career in opera, I went to opera school with Professor Witt. I also took Song and Oratorio classes with Professor Erich Werba, but it soon turned out that I had a strong "affinity" for contemporary music; and so Friedrich Cerha and Kurt Schwertsik invited me to sing Pierre Boulez' improvisations sur mallarmée with their newly founded ensemble "Die Reihe" in the Schubert Hall of the Vienna Konzerthaus. The debut was in 1959, and in some way this constitutes a historic moment, because at that time it was a pioneering enterprise to present works like this to the conservative Viennese public!
Meeting Friedrich Cerha was artistically enriching; he taught me the correct understanding of Schoenberg’s conception of sprechgesang in “Pierrot Lunaire,” a piece that I performed with him many times in Vienna, as well as abroad, in 1975 even at the Vienna State Opera choreography by Nurejev. I sang in recitals and concerts of Avantgarde music directed by Lorin Maazel, Paul Sacher, Mauricio Kagel, Pierre Boulez, and many others in Austria and internationally. My preference was for the composers of the Vienna School (Webern, Berg, Schoenberg), but also for impressionist music. Perhaps this might come as a surprise to some, but in fact it is only through working with the music of the Vienna School that I gained a full emotional understanding of what it means to make music in Vienna. Many times, when I was touring abroad, I longed for these finest of nuances so much appreciated by the Viennese audience. Immersing myself in these songs in turn opened the path to Schubert’s works. Astonished? No: this all is pure Vienna.
One day, Klaus and Michel Walter showed me reconstructions of medieval musical instruments that they themselves had made, the result of their long engagement with early music. The lutes, rebecs, shawms, horns, etc. sounded unusual, enchanting—I was fascinated. And so, in 1965, we co-founded “Les Menestrels,” an ensemble for early music, in which I sang until around 1975.
In the mid-1970s, Vienna’s fossilized cultural crust began to burst open, the effects of avantgarde music became apparent. While the good citizens booed the Living Theater from New York at the Theater an der Wien, I participated in experimental theater workshops at the Dramatisches Zentrum Wien—figures such as Ellen Stewart, the founder of La Mama E.T.C., or Jerzy Grotowski. The nascent women’s movement was making itself heard, too, and, together with others, I was performing in an all-women theater group.
As is well known man (and woman!) is a bit like an onion, and consists of different layers. Because of the way we are educated, usually only the surface layer is perceived. This might be convenient, but much is lost. It is very lucky to have the inner layers of the onion protest loud enough to make themselves heard.
I was gripped by a passionate desire to make theater, to write my own pieces and to perform them. Yet again, time was ripe for change! I quit the ensemble “Les Menestrels,” and my new career began, it had its weak spots, but was ultimately informed by pleasure. My path was autodidactic, I developed my own style, the name of which has not yet been invented: it’s not cabaret, nor is it a concert, even though there are elements of both. (I am indebted to the Wolfgang Kos, the museum director, who said “with her, the categories start to come apart.”) It was exciting to encounter the audience on a first name basis, a very different situation from the formally constrained concerts. The debut in my new branch of trade took place in the “Kulisse,” an idealistic art center open to experimentation that at that time gave opportunities to many artists that were looking for a new beginning.
The inspiration for my programs is visceral, but it also comes from the heard. I mostly take up issues that concern me on a personal level, like being a woman, getting older, being a foreigner… or, on a more general level, I take on the arrogance of those in power in politics and church.
|75 bis heute||
I have written and produced many programs, you can look them up on my website. Of course I also continue to sing in concerts and music events, like in evenings of Sephardic songs with Aaron Saltiel and Wolfram Märzendorfer (Alondra) and Sephardic as well as songs by Victor Jara und Violeta Parra with Eleonore Petzel and Judith Keller (Gruppe Limon). Together with the guitarist Judith Pahola, I recently produced a program of songs by Federico García Lorca. For the past two years, Herbert Url, a piano player from Graz, has accompanied my solo programs.
LEARNING AND TEACHING
I studied with many voice teachers, and all of them always meant well, but Professor Lajos Szamosi and his daughter Hedda were the ones to open the big door for me. I’m indebted to them for still being able to sing today. They also provided me with a foundation on which to develop in my future teaching. By the way, I coined the term “vocal LIBERATION.” It has been adapted by many to make a distinction to vocal TRAINING, a name that reminds a little of drill (see information on workshops on my website).