Mann »Schön war es dort!«

Frau »Ihr habt euch also über mich unterhalten?«

Frau »Nun werde ich mir auch die Haare färben«

Frau »Glaubst Du wirklich, du kannst mich erwärmen«

Frau »Aber wirklich: verstündest du mich,...«

Frau »So werde ich dazu singen«

Mann »Liebste, der Gasmann ist draußen!«

Sänger »Sie, gnädige Frau, am Telephon?«

Frau »Soll ich wieder ich sein?«

Frau »Baby, lies, was auf dieser Schachtel steht«

Freundin und Sänger »Oho, oho, oho, was seh’ ich da?«

Frau »Wir vielleicht schon verblaßte«

>>> libretto | sources

DURATION: ca. 53 Min.

LIBRETTO: Max Blonda (Pseudonym für Gertrud Schönberg)

VERSIONS: Originalfassung (1929); eigenhändiger Klavierauszug (1929)


During the later 1920s one response to the much-discussed "crisis of the opera" was the exploration of topical themes through the "Zeitoper." Set in the present, usually humorous, and invariably featuring the props and fashions of daily life, the genre enjoyed a brief but heady vogue. In the fall of 1928, Arnold Schönberg was convinced that he, too, could write a topical opera as successful as those of Ernst Krenek and Kurt Weill, but without adopting, but in fact critiquing the musical styles associated with the genre.

"'Von heute auf morgen' is intended to be a light comic opera: reflecting only what takes place from one day to the next, something ephemeral, impermanent. Even assuming that the 'what' of the plot were more significant, the 'how' of presentation must be light: an every-day, almost banal story; and only those who care do so need accept the deeper meaning. It is a portrait of how dangerous it is to rock foundations for the sake of fashion. It is a portrait of people who are silly enough to convert principles - with which fashion of course merely tries to show off - into practice; people who risk their marital happiness without suspecting that fashion content, with superficialities may in its next turn again glorify that very marital happiness. Those who consider not just this obvious meaning but the double meaning of the many puns will easily perceive the other themes that may certainly be considered alongside. These thoughts are garbed and made clear as follows: The couple returns home from an engagement, the husband 'once again' raving about an elegant, fashionable woman. His much too domestic spouse, annoyed and feeling her happiness threatened, shows him that 'women can do both', by putting on the clothes of a dancer, assuming the pose of a 'woman of the world', and playing the fool in a way that corresponds to that view of life. In the beginning she charms her husband, who takes her seriously, but eventually he wishes her 'the way she was before'. Almost reconciled, they must undergo one more trial, namely the attacks of the 'people of today': the 'charming vivacious woman' and the 'famous tenor' who tries to tempt the wife appear and seductively espouse the modern view of life. In vain: when, without having achieved their end, they leave, even the husband no longer finds them 'that modern' any more." (Arnold Schönberg: Notes for a publicity flyer about "Von heute auf morgen," April 1930)

"Not many people have an idea how things would be if the slogans on everybody's lips became reality. How much evil would remain undone in life, in politics, in art, in all private affairs if everyone could imagine the consequences of their actions: for example if a politician could picture those whom he sends to their death, if an employer could see the effect of a dismissial, or the employee, the consequences of an omission. However harmless, in comparison, the slogans of fashion might seem, however unimportant it is to imagine how you look with a wide or narrow tie, in tight-fitting or in baggy trousers, with long or with short hair, or with longer or shorter hemlines - for you are covered by the fashion and the next one will bring something different again - the matter becomes serious when fashionable slogans shake the foundations of private life, the relationship between the sexes, and the institution of marriage: for the next fashion will bring something different again." (Arnold Schönberg: Introduction to a broadcast of the opera "Von heute auf morgen," Funkstunde Berlin, 1930)

"One ought to feel, or sense, that behind these simple events something else is hidden; that these everyday characters and happenings are being used to show how, above and beyond this simple story of a marriage, the so-called modern, the merely modish exists only from today till tomorrow, from a shaky hand to a greedy mouth - not only in marriage, but no less in art, in politics and in attitudes towards life." (Arnold Schönberg to Wilhelm Steinberg, 4 October 1929)

Schönberg's critique of the genre "Zeitoper" took the form principally of applying his now fully developed and mature twelve-tone method while eschewing the most important musical attribute of the genre, imitation of American dance music and jazz. Clearly Schönberg was confident that the twelve-tone method and his mastery of it were now flexible enough to enable him to write an entirely original popular comic opera.

"The main advantage of the method of composing with twelve tones is its unifying effect. In a very convincing way, I experienced this satisfaction of having been right about this when I once prepared the singers of my opera 'Von heute auf morgen.' The technique, rhythm and intonation of all these parts were tremendously difficult for them, though they all possessed absolute pitch. But suddenly one of the singers came and told me that since he had become familiar with the basic set, everything seemed easier for him. At short intervals all the other singers told me the same thing independently. I was very pleased with this, and, thinking it over, I found ever greater encouragement in the following hypothesis: Prior to Richard Wagner, operas consisted almost exclusively of independent pieces, whose mutual relation did not seem to be a musical one. Personally, I refuse to believe that in the great masterworks pieces are connected only by the superficial coherence of the dramatic proceedings. Even if these pieces were merely 'fillers' taken from earlier works of the same composer, something must have satisfied the master's sense of form and logic. We may not be able to discover it, but certainly it exists. In music there is no form without logic, there is no logic without unity. I believe that when Richard Wagner introduced his 'Leitmotiv' - for the same purpose as that for which I introduced my basic set - he may have said: 'Let there be unity.'" (Arnold Schönberg: Composition with Twelve Tones)

For Schönberg it was the twelve-tone system that held the key to the future, and in "Von heute auf morgen" he was seeking to prove that that key was not incompatible with popular success. The 1930 performances at the Frankfurt Opera and over the radio dissapointed the composer. His hopes for popular success were not realized. Within two months of the premiere Schönberg was to pen the rather defensive essay "My Public," an essay in which he argues that "expert judges" - principally conductors, performers, and others with influence in the musical world - are to blame for the lack of understanding of his music.

© Arnold Schönberg Center

Libretto and Introduction: PDF