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Object #47 / Marie Pappenheim: Expectation

Libretto with sketches by Arnold Schönberg

Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien

“Write an opera text for me, Miss!” – August 1909: Schönberg and his family spent their vacation in Steinakirchen (Lower Austria). It was through Alexander 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 Steinakirchen that Schönberg invited her to write a libretto.

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.

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