Seven questions to ... Martin Muehle
In Tchaikovsky’s THE QUEEN OF SPADES Martin Muehle sings Herman, the besotted and addicted gambler. We put three questions to the German-Brazilian tenor
Herman hasn’t met the object of his affections yet, but he’s already head over heels in love with her. Have you ever been in love at several removes?
Oh, very often, yes! I was pretty shy in my teens and quite lovesick a number of times. And Tchaikovsky’s music conveys that bitter-sweet feeling of romantic suffering.
How much room for irrationality is there in love?
A lot. I don’t mean the pathological sort of craziness but in a salutary sense of being able to give free rein to your fantasy and breach moral boundaries. With the proviso that both parties are of one mind.
In THE QUEEN OF SPADES you sing in Russian. What aspect of that was the hardest thing for you?
The languages I sing in are usually ones that I can speak: German, Italian, French, Spanish. And because I don’t know Russian, I’ve got to learn the sound of the language as well as what the words mean. For over a year now I’ve been working on the role with language tutors and singing coaches! It takes time and application. Russian is lovely to sing. It has very open vowels, like Italian does, and it fits Tchaikovsky’s music beautifully.
How does a singer convey the madness of a character?
Tchaikovsky uses his music to depict madness. Everything is there in the music: potency, romance, power… I don’t need a lot of imagination to portray Herman. And anyway, I prefer singing broken characters; they’re more human. Many of the tenor roles involve people who are heroic and noble and almost superhuman. Doing Herman is about immersing yourself in human possibility.
Why does madness crop up so much in opera?
I’m guessing those characters have conflicting sides to their characters and are just more interesting. But in real life, too, there are probably more mentally sick people out there than we think. I wonder what has to happen for someone to end up in a situation like Herman’s. I know opera singers who were addicted to gambling, some of whom lost everything.
Any addictive streak in your nature?
I’ve dabbled in the Baden-Baden casino, but it didn’t really grab me, especially seeing as I lost everything in nothing flat and stopped playing immediately. Sweets, food, alcohol, cigarettes… Nope, no chance of addiction there.
No crypto-craving at all?
I crave the stage! I’m addicted to the shot of adrenalin that the stage gives me and to the business of pushing my boundaries.