Die schöne Müllerin

6.7.8/05 > 20:00
Duration: +/- 2:00
Deutsch > Subtitles: Fr & Nl

An acerbic and inventive visionary, Christoph Marthaler is a key figure on the theatre scene in Europe. Here he is transposing Schubert’s cycle of twenty lieder, Die schöne Müllerin, into a vocal, musical, choreographic and theatrical gem.

A stream for a confidant, love for a beautiful miller girl, silent ecstasy followed by mortal sorrow. In Marthaler’s grasp, the bucolic stream has turned into torrents of water, and similarly there is a sombre melancholy in insanity. Torment dislocates the bodies. The lieder become iridescent with searing polyphonies. Here there is no nature, no mill. Instead it is set in a severe bourgeois salon, where the voice of disenchantment sings its astounding songs behind closed doors.

Coproduction with Ruhrtriennale


Christoph Marthaler


Rosemary Hardy (soprano), Altea Garrido, Bettina Stucky/Corin Curschellas, Daniel Chait, Markus Hinterhäuser (piano & celesta), Christoph Homberger (tenor), Ueli Jäggi, Christoph Keller (piano), Stefan Kurt, Thomas Stache, Graham F. Valentine, Markus Wolff

Set Design & costumes:

Anna Viebrock


Rosemary Hardy, Markus Hinterhäuser, Christoph Homberger, Christoph Keller (Arrangements), Christoph Marthaler


Herbert Cybulska


Stefanie Carp, Arved Schultze

Assistant to the Director:

Michel Schröder

Assistant Set Design:

Duri Bischoff

Assistant Costumes:

Simone Strässle

General technical management:

Irene Herbst

Trainee direction:

Anna-Sophie Mahler

Technical Director:

David Leuthold


Erwin Imwinkelried

Responsible workshop:

Dirk Wauschkuhn

Technical Construction:

Martin Caflisch

Technical Director:

Angelo Rosenfelder

Technical Installation:

Florin Dora

Responsible light:

Herbert Cybulska


Ursula Degen, Sascha Haenschke

Responsible sound:

Markus Keller


Jörg Albertin, Kaspar Hugentobler

Responsible make-up:

Erich Müller


Judith Janser-Ruckstuhl, Erich Müller

Responsible studio female cut:

Iris Caspar Stoytschev

Responsible studio male cut:

Anita Lang


Beatrice Kürsteiner


Amelia Bissig, Isabelle Hofer, Maia Honegger

Responsible props:

René Kümpel


Seraina Heinz, Nicole Tillein

Responsible painter's studio:

Thomas Unseld


Daniel Härri

Responsible ironwork:

Guido Brunner

Responsible studio wall decorations:

Roland Oberholzer


Schauspielhaus Zürich, Ruhrtriennale

Special thanks to:

Régie Mobile - La Mission Locale Etterbeekoise pour l'Empli et la Formation


Halles de Schaerbeek, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

Supported by:

Pro Helvetia

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Und über den Wolken und Sternen,
da rieselte munter der Bach

(Trans.: And over the clouds and stars
ran merrily the brook )

by Markus Hinterhäuser

The danger of natural phenomena to which people are exposed, as well as their power of attraction, are amazingly frequent themes in Schubert’s lieder. The King of the Elves, one of Schubert’s first lieder, presents a child pushed towards death by a frightening natural phenomenon. The allegory in it linking nature, Eros and death is more dramatic here that in any other similar work.

The sweet, captivating calls of the linden tree in Winterreise, as well as the impulse towards death they conceal, could guide the interpretation of several lieder in Die Schöne Müllerin. The supposed simplicity of these lieder evokes a dangerous and enigmatic world. It is the brook that is the key element of the lieder here, expressing the stages of seduction, passion and death, and a direct metaphor for decomposition, sexuality and excess.

Right from the second lied Wohin? (Whither?), the apprentice miller is troubled by this stream (Du hast mit deinem Rauschen mir ganz berauscht den Sinn)(With your rippling you have quite bewildered my senses.) He feels intuitively that he is being drawn towards an unknown land, he senses that he will give himself up to this seduction, that he will succumb to it. I know not what overcame me, nor who gave such advice, I too, had to follow with my staff…(Hinunter / Down). This ‘obligation to descend’ already reveals a sense of downfall, the backdrop against which the story of Die Schöne Müllerin takes place. If the tempo of the first lieder still gives the impression of progress of some kind, the sixth Lied Der Neugierige (The Inquisitive One) on the other hand marks a stop, a decisive interruption. The apprentice miller asks the brook, O, brook of my love, say, brook, does she love me? From that moment on, this happily flowing, peaceful brook freezes, remaining calm and smooth for the first time. The young man asks again, Brook of my love, does she love me? In contrast to the text by Müller from on this work is based, Schubert asks this question twice. How strangely you are behaving, silent brook… tell me… This sweet entreaty in B major – very close to a choral – remains without answer. The brook does not answer the young man’s question, however decisive.

It is only in the penultimate lied Der Müller und der Bach (The Miller and the Brook) that a conversation tentatively begins, but it is already too late, everything is already coming to a close. The brook cannot console the young man, it can only welcome him and shelter him in ‘its crystal chamber’, because death has fixed its hour. In the last lied Des Baches Wiegenlied (The Brook’s Lullaby), the brook has seized hold of the apprentice miller, holding him anxiously away from all life and earthly troubles. When a hunting horn sounds from the green forest, then it will murmur and make everything around him tremble and the young man will no longer be able to see the slightest little blue flower. Even the young girl’s shadow will no longer be able to touch his eyes. The tension expressed by the lullaby is created by coupling together the young man’s suicide and his total confidence in nature, this sure and discreet maternal bosom.

In Tränenregen (Shower of Tears), the tenth Lied in the middle of the cycle, the young man sings an eloquent phrase about his perception of the world: And over the clouds and stars ran merrily the brook. All laws of space and gravity seem to have disappeared, reality seems to be pure illusion, an illusion as immense as Die Schöne Müllerin. One even wonders whether this young girl, the fair maid of the mill, really does exist in flesh and blood, or whether she is society’s reflection of a desire for a boy’s love for a girl. In this lied, the young man’s tears swell the brook. The world and coveted love can no longer be seen except in the reflection of his tears, tears running in the brook far above the universe.

Throughout the story, the feeling of ‘being a stranger to the world’ is taken to a paroxysm of obsession, to a point where anything virile and masterful, symbolised by the green of the forest, is unbearable for the young man. He has only one desire: to defoliate all the trees and cry on the grass to make it deathly pale.

In one of the last lieder (18),Trockne Blumen (Withered Flowers), this obsession gives way to an apparently calmer, but infinitely more disconsolate state. Spring, a time for love and revival, will only blossom for this wandering young man when he is dead: dann, Blümlein alle, heraus, heraus! Der Mai ist kommen, der Winter ist aus. Then, little flowers, spring forth, spring forth! May has arrived, and winter is over.

Das Wandern (Wandering), the first lied in the cycle of Die Schöne Müllerin, is written in B flat major; the last Des Baches Wiegelied (The Brook’s Lullaby), in E Major. The augmented fourth – also known as ‘diabolus in musica!’ during the baroque period – and without doubt the most shocking and saddest interval between the first and last lied, is probably a deliberate choice by Schubert: ‘going out into the world” is turned into ‘going out beyond the world’.

When one suffers for the world, one dedicates body and soul to something else, and there is no doubt that Schubert’s music can be defined as a way of entirely abandoning oneself, even if it is dangerous to project a work’s codes on the biography of an artist and vice versa.

Schubert composed with a radical subjectivity almost impossible to maintain. In this respect he differs quite markedly from Ludwig von Beethoven, a composer he admired through out his entire life but whom he could not really get close to, even in his dreams. In its middle period, Beethoven’s music harbours what was at least a rhetorical impulse to changes and improvements to the world. Schubert’s own attitude was very different: the gentleness in his style of composing often givens an impression of inactivity, as if he was hesitating to open up, as if he was revealing both a sharp and gentle sense of communion with the world. In his essay on the phenomenon of weather in Schubert, Dieter Schnebel describes the first part of the piano sonata in B flat major (D. 960) “as the protocol of a life crumbling away by action more tentative than deliberate.”

Schubert created a space where he gave himself time, another form of ‘Melos’ (Ancient Greek for singing), another totally subjective rule of behaviour that uses processes of composition that bring conventions to an end.

His compositions give more and more substance to subjectivity as the expression of a frame of mind, of a feeling. The intimacy of the lied is created by words that we hear being sung by another while making them ours. Schubert’s lieder are completely recognisable: they evoke a collective or as it were a social process where everyone hears their own song, their own life being sung.

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