1. Scene: Am Rande eines Waldes. Mondhelle Straßen und Felder; der Wald hoch und dunkel
2. Scene: Tiefstes Dunkel. Breiter Weg, hohe dichte Stämme
3. Scene: Weg noch immer im Dunkel. Seitlich vom Wege ein breiter heller Streifen
4. Scene: Mondbeschienene breite Straße, rechts aus dem Wald kommend. Wiesen und Felder

»Hier hinein?...« (1. Scene)

»Ist das noch der Weg?« (2. Scene)

»Da kommt ein Licht!...« (3. Scene)

»Er ist auch nicht da...« (4. Scene)

»Das Mondlicht...«

»Aber so seltsam ist dein Auge...«

»Du siehst wieder dort hin!...«

»Für mich ist kein Platz da...«

»Liebster, Liebster, der Morgen kommt...«

>>> libretto | sources

DURATION: ca. 29 Min.

LIBRETTO: Marie Pappenheim

Originalfassung (1909/1914)
eigenhändiger Klavierauszug (1909/1910)
Reduzierte Fassungen von Paul Méfano / Michel Decoust (2001) und Faradsch Karaew (2004)

Universal Edition
Belmont Music Publishers (USA, Kanada, Mexico)

“Write an opera text for me, Miss!” – August 1909: Schönberg and his family spent their vacation together with Alexander von Zemlinsky, Alban Berg, Anton Webern and Max Oppenheimer in Steinakirchen near Amstetten. It was through Zemlinsky and Karl Kraus that the young Viennese physician Marie Pappenheim was introduced to the circle around Schönberg. During her medical studies at the University of Vienna, Pappenheim wrote poetry under the pseudonym Maria Heim, and it was in the Lower Austrian summer resort that Schönberg invited her to write a libretto. Pappenheim, whose poetry had been issued by Kraus in 1906 in “The Torch” (“Die Fackel”), had graduated in 1909 and thereafter set up a practice as dermatologist, as she “did not want to wander through life as a lyric poet.” Two days after Schönberg’s invitation, she travelled on to friends in Traunkirchen, where within three weeks she had composed the text to the monodrama “Erwartung.” “I wrote lying in the grass, with pencil, on large sheets of paper, had no copy, scarcely read through what I had written.” Even while revising the text manuscript that Pappenheim had submitted to him at his vacation residence, Schönberg occasionally jotted down musical ideas here and there. The first copy of the short score was completed in the brief period between 27 August and 12 September 1909. (The hypothesis was subsequently voiced that the composer, with his ambitions towards numerical mysticism, had chosen the opus number 17 on the occasion of the publication by Universal Edition to reflect the compositional period of seventeen days.) The fair copy of the score is dated 4 October 1909. In an interview of 1949 Marie Pappenheim corrected the misconception among researchers that the basic idea for “Erwartung” stemmed from Schönberg: “I received neither a clue to nor an indication of what I should write (would also not have accepted it).” The establishment of the one-act work as autonomous generic form took as its point of departure the writings of August Strindberg, who was highly regarded by the (Second) Viennese School. Monodramatic elements include not only the abandonment of interaction between characters, but also the minimalization of plot devices – characteristics that in Pappenheim’s expressionistic drama are thought out to their furthermost logical consequence. On this “empty” leaf, as it were, egocentricity assumes the most radical form: in expectation of her lover, the woman sets out in search and follows wrong trails to stations of uncertainty – remembrance – hope – “illusionary misunderstanding” (Erwin Ringel) – rationalization – jealousy – sorrow – and finally excessive exhaltation of the man who survives only as a dead object. The depth of the forest scenario becomes a projection room for distressing traumatic states – obscurity, danger, threat, fear, loneliness, horror, darkness – and naturalistically reinterprets the subjective ordeal of suffering the woman lives through in four scenes. Marie Pappenheim’s syntax consists of a paratactic, disorganized series of sentence fragments that permit associations in the form of a lyric monologue to crystallize from the psyche of the woman: “I always wrote exaltedly, without direction, reflection, censorship, page after page, between the verses other thoughts.” The dissolution of syntax in the concentrated language of the monologue corresponds to a liberation of the functional structures of tonality. Small motivic cells are subjugated to a permanent mutation and propelled by an inner impulse of the text (recitative-like motion without repetition or pause). Tempos change according to psychological impulses of fear, a “seismographic record of traumatic shock” (Theodor W. Adorno). Decentralization of the consonant, abolition of tonal center and cadence – characteristics of free atonality – reflect the forcible expressive freedom of the libretto. At the close of the fourth scene Pappenheim offers a topical parallel to John Henry Mackay’s poem “By the Wayside” (“Am Wegrand”), set by Schönberg in his (still tonal) song op. 6, no. 6, and again quoted by him in the coda to “Erwartung,” as a variant adaptation of the song line “Longing fills the confines of my life” (“Sehsucht erfüllt die Bezirke des Lebens”). While composing the monodrama, Schönberg kept concretely in mind the voice of Maria Gutheil-Schoder, who had sung the vocal part in the Second String Quartet op. 10 at its premiere: “You will remember that I have repeatedly spoken to you of a dramatic work in which there is a part for you. It is a monodrama, with only one part, a real part, conceived as a Gutheil-part” (letter of 22 August 1913). Even as early as 1910 Schönberg had begun to negotiate with the conductor Arthur Bodanzky of the Mannheim National Theater concerning a possible performance of “Erwartung.” Planning was delayed until 1913 and ultimately abandoned because of the small size of the Mannheim orchestra. Discussions with the Vienna Folk Opera (1910) and the Vienna Academic League (1913) also proved fruitless. The premiere finally took place on 6 June 1924 at the German Opera House in Prague, as part of the music festival of the International Society for New Music directed by Alexander von Zemlinsky. The work was lauded in the musical press as a “protest against operatic rubbish” (“Signale für die musikalische Welt”) and as “a frightfully intensive focusing upon the state of a soul” (“Die Musik”).

Therese Muxeneder | © Arnold Schönberg Center

Libretto and Introduction: PDF (German)