Zerbinetta’s Despair

The Linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos (part IV): No sorrow without subjunctive.


Three voices – great voices I must say (they are sopranos) – about my recent workshop on the linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos:


With her great aria “Großmächtige Prinzessin”, Zerbinetta, this coquettish vaudeville dancer who charmed the Komponist just to mock his opera afterwards, is getting serious. Now, thrown into the opera and touched by Ariadne’s surrender to loneliness and death, she has send away her troupe that had tried to fill the deserted island with joy.

Zerbinetta reaches out to Ariadne – with a subjunctive for verstehen. She will speak (or better: sing) the subjunctive several times in this aria. The subjunctive makes it possible to experiment with thoughts (what if …), make suggestions (you could …) and polite requests (would you …) and at the beginning of this aria, to express empathy (who would not …). The subjunctive form of verstehen (understand) is verstünde.

Vocabulary of the first part:
erlaucht = (old) respected
erhaben = sublime
das Maß = (here) degree, dimension
gemein = (here) common (also: mean)
der/die Sterbliche = mortal

Großmächtige Prinzessin, wer verstünde nicht,
Dass so erlauchter und erhabener Personen Traurigkeit
Mit einem anderen Maß gemessen werden muss
Als der gemeinen Sterblichen.

The character of the sentence: A rhetorical question. Who would not understand …

The statement of the sentence: A measurement. The verb: messen.


Zerbinetta uses the passive voice (werden + participle, here: gemessen)
Something has to be measured mit einem anderen Maß (in a different degree/dimension, better: seen in a different way). The words anderen (different) and als (as) imply a comparison.
Zerbinetta compares die Traurigkeit (sadness) of people. What people?
Of erlauchte, erhabene Personen (like Ariadne) and gemeine Sterblicher.

Vocabulary of the second part:
unbegreiflich = unfathomable
die Schwachheit = frailty, weakness
eingestehen = to admit
zucken = tremor (here: wildly longing for something)
die Gruft = grave
die Vertraute = confidant
der Fels = cliff

– Jedoch
Sind wir nicht Frauen unter uns, und schlägt denn nicht
In jeder Brust ein unbegreiflich, unbegreiflich Herz?
Von unserer Schwachheit sprechen,
Sie uns selber eingestehen,
Ist es nicht schmerzlich süß?
Und zuckt uns nicht der Sinn danach?
Sie wollen mich nicht hören –
Schön und stolz und regungslos,
Als wären Sie die Statue auf Ihrer eigenen Gruft –
Sie wollen keine andere Vertraute
Als diesen Fels und diese Wellen haben?

Zerbinetta asks Ariadne four rhetorical questions:
Are we not women? (intensified with unter uns = between us, no man disturbs us right now.)
Does not beat a heart in our chest? (even more intensified with 2 unbegreiflich = incomprehensible, by the way without regard for the correct adjective ending as it was common back in the day.)
Isn’t it schmerzlich süß (painfully sweet) to speak of one’s Schwachheit, to admit sie (pronoun for die Schwachheit) uns selber (to ourself)?
She steps up her pleading with the dramatic question whether their mind does not zucken for that (= danach).
Zerbinetta laments that she does not get a reply (this time Sie is the second person pronoun for Ariadne), introduces another subjunctive, this time wären (for sein), “as if you were the statue on your own grave,” and continues with another question: “Do you want no other confidants than this rock and these waves?”

Vocabulary of the third part:
erstarren = to freeze (one’s heart, movement etc.)
durchleiden = suffer through
ausgesetzt = abandoned
ihrer mehrere = (referring to earlier mentioned islands) several of those
verfluchen = to curse
sinds = Viennese accent for sind es
das Wehen = waft
hastig = hurried, hasty
gefeit gegen = (old) immune, protected against
die Verwandlung = transformation

Prinzessin, hören Sie mich an – nicht Sie allein,
Wir alle – ach, wir alle – was Ihr Herz erstarrt,
Wer ist die Frau, die es nicht durchgelitten hätte?
Verlassen! in Verzweiflung! ausgesetzt!
Ach, solcher wüsten Inseln sind unzählige
Auch mitten unter Menschen, ich – ich selber
Ich habe ihrer mehrere bewohnt
Und habe nicht gelernt, die Männer zu verfluchen.
Treulos – sie sinds!
Ungeheuer, ohne Grenzen!
Eine kurze Nacht,
Ein hastiger Tag,
Ein Wehen der Luft,
Ein fließender Blick
Verwandelt ihr Herz!
Aber sind wir denn gefeit
Gegen die grausamen – entzückenden,
Die unbegreiflichen Verwandlungen?

Inside, the jolly Zerbinetta is lonely as well, having lived even amongst people (mitten unter Menschen) on such empty islands, too.
Another rhetorical question, with hätte durchgelitten.
Die Frau leidet durch. (present tense, indicative = real)
Die Frau hat durchgelitten = (perfect tense, indicative = real)
Die Frau hätte durchgelitten = (past, subjunctive = speculative)

She produces the vocabulary of despair which we have not expected from her so far:
Verlassen, ausgesetzt, in Verzweiflung.
She has not learned to curse men, those unfaithful (treulos) monsters (Ungeheuer) who have no limits (ohne Grenzen). A few unpleasant things (a short night, a hectic day, a waft) change their heart. She asks, “Are we immune against those cruel, enchanting, unfathomable transformations?”

Vocabulary of the fourth part:
betören = to lure, to tempt
verstohlen = covert
zuweilen = (old) sometimes
die Laune = (here) spirit, feeling
beklommen = fearful, dreadful
um und um = (here) through and through
hingegeben = surrendered

Noch glaub’ ich dem einen ganz mich gehörend,
Noch mein’ ich mir selber so sicher zu sein,
Da mischt sich im Herzen leise betörend
Schon einer nie gekosteten Freiheit,
Schon einer neuen verstohlenen Liebe
Schweifendes freches Gefühle sich ein!
Noch bin ich wahr, und doch ist es gelogen,
Ich halte mich treu und bin schon schlecht,
Mit falschen Gewichte wird alles gewogen –
Und halb mich wissend und halb im Taumel
Betrüg’ ich ihn endlich und lieb’ ihn noch recht!

Hugo von Hofmannsthal uses a narrative device, creating suspense between the words noch (still, at first) and da (here: then, suddenly) and schon (already). Still, she believes she belongs to him (zu ihm gehörend, zu leads to dative ihm), still, she is so sure of herself, then, suddenly a feeling of a new, covert love trickles into her heart. The librettist gives us a “poet’s genitive”:
einer Freiheit Gefühl, einer Liebe Gefühl …
Today we would say: ein schweifendes freches Gefühl einer nie gekosteten Freiheit,
ein schweifendes freches Gefühl einer neuen verstohlenen Liebe.

And now, in a brilliant piece of poetry, von Hofmannsthal amplifies Zerbinetta’s passion by throwing us back and forth between contradictions:
Between true (wahr) and lied to (gelogen),
faithful (treu) and bad, evil (schlecht);
everything is weighed with false stone weights (mit falchen Gewichten),
half knowingly (wissend) and half in delirium (Taumel)
she cheats (betrügen) on him eventually (endlich), and still loves him well.

So war es mit Pagliazzo
Und mit Mezzetin!
Dann war es Cavicchio,
Dann Burattin,
Dann Pasquariello !
Ach, und zuweilen,
Will es mir scheinen,
Waren es zwei!
Doch niemals Launen,
Immer ein Müssen!
Immer ein neues
Beklommenes Staunen.
Dass ein Herz so gar sich selber,
Gar sich selber nicht versteht!

Zerbinetta lists her lovers; and sometimes there were two at once, but she never was with them for fun (here: Launen); there was always a Müssen (the verb must as a noun), always astonishment that a heart can not understand itself. The particle gar works as an intensifier. (We can say nicht, or we can say gar nicht = not at all.)

Als ein Gott kam jeder gegangen,
Und sein Schritt schon machte mich stumm,
Küsste er mir Stirn und Wangen,
War ich von dem Gott gefangen
Und gewandelt um und um!

Als ein Gott kam jeder gegangen,
Jeder wandelte mich um,
Küsste er mir Mund und Wangen,
Hingegeben war ich stumm!
Kam der neue Gott gegangen,
Hingegeben war ich stumm!

Everyone of them (jeder) came as a god. His steps (Schritt) made her silent (stumm). He kissed her forehead and her cheeks. She was captured by the god, and transformed (gewandelt) over and over.

Zerbinetta’s aria performed by Edita Gruberova in a 1978 production:

Eben darum – Hidden Emotions

The Linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos (part III): Particles tell what the characters feel.



Ariadne auf Naxos” contains two types of language: A noble language expressing suffering or joy or virtues as honesty, courage, love, faithfulness, or altruism; and a language we normally speak when we engage in little jokes, gossip, aggressive or soothing statements etc.


In the latter more then in the first, we often use particles, little words that never change, and consequently are never subjected to declension. They are scattered throughout our language in such a large number that we are tempted to call them its glue, although a sentence can express our thoughts sufficiently without them. However, particles are words that tell us the attitudes or feelings of the speaker (or singer). They emphasise, amplify, confirm or affirm, show surprise or hesitation, and they tell the singers the underlying emotions of the sentence they are singing. Those words have often a primary meaning, but in context they function as particles: doch, gerade, noch, halt, eben, so, ja, gern, nämlich, ganz etc. There are many more.

The libretti of Hugo von Hofmannsthal are full of them, especially when they describe scenes in which the characters are uncertain or passioned, or about to act with courage or want to hide intentions. We find many of them in “Der Rosenkavalier”, and some of course in “Ariadne auf Naxos”, especially in the Vorspiel. Here are examples:

The Haushofmeister informs the Musiklehrer that the opera has to be curtailed to the needs of the patron and his guests who want to be entertained by a vaudeville show as well. The Musiklehrer expresses his indignation:

Die Opera seria Ariadne wurde eigens für diese festliche Veranstaltung komponiert.

He can say that without the word eigens, but he wants to make a point: This opera exists only because of these festivities and of nothing else.
eigens = specifically, ad hoc

Although distressed by the ill treatment he and his opera has to suffer, the Komponist continues to compose. He has a musical idea, wants to write it down and asks the Perückenmacher for a piece of paper (ein Stückerl Schreibpapier, Stückerl is Viennese for a little piece.):

Hat der Herr vielleicht ein Stückerl Schreibpapier?
Hätt’ mir
gern was aufnotiert!
Ich vergess’
nämlich gar so leicht.

We can sense his fear of getting rejected again behind this polite request. He addresses the Perückenmacher in the very polite third person der Herr, and asks if the gentleman has vielleicht (maybe) a piece of paper. Although to say that in this context it is not necessary, he then indicates the reason (was aufnotieren), only to make it sound cute and humble, almost submissive, with the word gern.
He gives also an apology: He forgets easily. With nämlich gar he portaits himself as an amiable absent-minded man. Who would deny him a little piece of paper?

When the Komponist later indicates to the Musiklehrer that he would like to withdraw the opera altogether, the Musiklehrer advises to stay on, to compromise and to make the changes as requested. This is the first time the Komponist is presenting his work, and he should not mess up this opportunity with a scandal. The Musiklehrer weighs in his life experience. He is thirty years older than the Komponist (Jahr’ln = Viennese for Jährchen, deminuitive for years, “little years”) and knows how “to behave in this world”. (sich schicken = old for to behave)

Mein Freund, ich bin halt dreissig Jahrl’n älter als wie du und hab’ halt gelernt, mich in die Welt zu schicken.

He adds halt, a word we hear often in conversations in German culture. With halt people say, “There is nothing that I can do”, es ist halt so.
Der Wecker ist halt kaputt. Deshalb komme ich zu spät.
My alarm is broken, there is nothing we can do about it. That’s why I am late.

After the Haushofmeister conveys his master’s complaint about the opera’s stage design of an deserted island, the Tanzmeister adds that there is “nothing more tasteless” than that. When the Komponist replies the island is a symbol for loneliness the Tanzmeister quips:

Eben darum braucht sie Gesellschaft.

He could say, “Darum braucht sie Gesellschaft” (darum = that’s why. That’s why she needs company.) but he includes eben. In this context, it means “exactly.” Exactly that’s why she needs company.



Of His Grace and You Donkey

The Linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos (part II): How the characters address and insult each other.



The second article in my series about the language of this Strauss opera examines the relationships between the characters in the Vorspiel. These relationships are expressed in salutations and insults of different degrees.


The characters in the Vorspiel seem to negotiate place and time of their performances, but in reality they displays the sentiments of their social classes and their views on art.

Each side thinks the other side has no right to make demands, either because of their inferior rank in the courtly society or because of their ignorance against the ennoblement of music. At the end, it all depends on the wishes of the patron, the gnädige Herr.



Personal and possessive pronouns: Sie, Er und Euer Gnaden

The patron never appears in the Vorspiel. He has his underling, the Haushofmeister. He is the contact person between the patron and the artists – or better the Musiklehrer; he never speaks to the Komponist or to Zerbinetta directly. The Haushofmeister thinks that he is closer to his master on the social ladder than to the lower classes, and therefore knows how to speak a pompous language. It takes a while during the exchange with the Musiklehrer until he addresses him with the Sie and the possessive Ihre, a recognition of the same class:

Ich wüsste nicht, wer außer meinem gnädigen Herrn, in dessen Palais Sie sich befinden und Ihre Kunstfertigkeiten heute zu produzieren die Ehre haben, etwas zu gestatten – geschweige denn anzuordnen hätte!”

The Komponist interacts mostly with the Musiklehrer, with the Lakai, the Perückenmacher, the Tenor, the Primadonna, and eventually with Zerbinetta.

Komponist to Lakai: At first he calls the lackey lieber Freund (dear friend) followed by an imperative without a bitte which makes it an order rather than a polite request:

Lieber Freund! Verschaffen Sie mir die Geigen. Richten Sie ihnen aus, dass sie sich hier versammeln sollen zu einer letzten, kurzen Verständigungsprobe.”

Only after the Lakai has denied the Komponist access to the backstage room where he believes to be his Primadonna, he resorts to the imposing third person Er, a way normally nobility used to address the servants.

Weiß Er, wer ich bin? Wer in meiner Oper singt, ist für mich jederzeit zu sprechen!”

Earlier, the Lakai has informed the Offizier about the woman he will find behind this door, addressing him with Euer Gnaden (your grace).

Hier finden Euer Gnaden die Mamsell Zerbinetta. Sie ist bei der Toilette. Ich werde anklopfen.”

Impatient and upset about the lackey’s overzealousness, the officer pushes him aside and says, using the imperative of sein lassen (= to refrain from something) and zum Teufel gehen (= go to hell!):

Lass Er das sein und geh’ Er zum Teufel.”

Although equal in rank, the Komponist addresses the Perückenmacher in third person, not with Er, but with a colloquial title: der Herr. He asks politely for a piece of paper to write down a musical idea:

Hat der Herr vielleicht ein Stückerl Schreibpapier?”

We encounter few possessive pronouns like the Haushofmeister’s Ihre Kunstfertigkeiten or samt Ihrem Eleven (samt = including, leads to dative; der Eleve = old for music student). When the Tenor complains about the wig the Perückenmacher has offered him, the Perückenmacher protests his bad behavior (misshelliges Betragen), using a very old personal pronoun: dero (your).

Now, how do the characters talk about the elephant in the room, the patron, early on described as the richest man in Vienna who is about to entertain his guests by showing them Zerbinetta’s vaudeville show and the composer’s opera, and, as the highpoint of the evening, grand fireworks?



The Haushofmeister speaks of him as der gnädige Herr (gracious lord) and conjugates the verbs attributed to him as if he was third person plural, not a mistake but a way to emphasize the nobility of the Herr:

Der gnädige Herr haben sich nunmehr wiederum anders besonnen.” And: “Mein gnädiger Herr belieben das von ihm selbst genehmigte Programm umzustoßen.”

The Musiklehrer slaps his forehead. He is indignant of this last-minute change of plans, but does not lose his countenance. He calls the patron Seine Gnaden although he conjugates sich vorstellen (to imagine) as third person singular as if he is talking about a regular mortal:

Ja, wie um aller Götter willen stellt sich denn Seine Gnaden das vor?”

Insults are the peppercorns of relationships

Librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal spices up the dialogs to different degrees:

Komponist to the Lakai:
Eselsgesicht, sehr unverschämter frecher Esel, Eselskerl (der Esel = donkey; unverschämt = impertinent; frech = cheeky): The Komponist feels offended, appalled.

Komponist about Bacchus, and what Bacchus is not:
Kein selbstgefälliger Hanswurst mit einem Pantherfell (selbstgefällig = self-complacent; der Hanswurst = tomfool; das Pantherfell = fur of a panther; Hanswurst in einem Pantherfell = a pretencious person)

The Tenor rants agains the Perückenmacher:
der Lump (= rascal)

The Primadonna expresses to the Musiklehrer her displeasure that she has to be on stage with the coquettish Zerbinetta:
“Uns mit dieser Sorte von Leuten in einen Topf!” (= to be likened with these kind of people, to be put in the same category as these kind of people.)

Geht alles am Schnürchen?

The Linguistics of “Ariadne auf Naxos” – Part One.


S-Bahn, Tempelhof Feld

This is my first article of a series about the linguistics of the Strauss opera “Ariadne auf Naxos”. The series is based on a workshop, I recently conducted with cast members of the Berlin Opera Group. The Group will perform the opera this April in Berlin.

The Language

The opera is divided into two parts, the Vorspiel and the Oper, and accordingly, we find two language styles in the libretto.

The language of the Vorspiel tends to be more casual, almost a spoken language, a language of a conflict about the question when and how two artistically opposing pieces of musical theater should be performed. In the roughly fourty-five minutes of the Vorspiel and with a few characters, the librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal manages to present us a wide range of sentiments: Arrogance, hurt feelings, outrage, forgiveness and relief, outbursts of joy, vanity, and appeasement. In personal pronouns and in curse words as well, he shows us the relationship between the social classes. He strews particles throughout the Vorspiel, little words that express emotions of attitudes, and with that helps the singers to find out how to emphasize particular section.


The second part, the actual opera Ariadne auf Naxos, merging with the vaudeville improvisations of Zerbinetta’s troupe, speaks a much more contained language, not less passionat, but simple and poetic, that adapts to the drama and beauty of the music. The columns, dedicated to this part, will examine particular arias.


Today: Twenty Words and Phrases from the Vorspiel

Find important words and phrases, spoken and sung by some characters in the Vorspiel. Some of them are explained in German, some are translated into English.
Old words that are outdated or rarely used today, are marked with the color red.

vb = verb
adj = adjective
adb = adverb
m = masculine, gender of a noun
f = feminine, gender of a noun
n = neuter, gender of a noun


pressiert adj = unter Druck sein, hier: unter Zeitdruck; the verb: pressieren
gesonnen adj = in der Stimmung sein, to be in the mood for something
ausrichten vb = hier: eine Information an eine andere Person geben

The MUSIKLEHRER ‘s words:

Aufregung f = Nervösität
wider advb = gegen, today used in compound nouns like Widerstand (resistance), Widerspruch (objection, contradiction), Widersacher (adversary)
erzürnen vb = wütend werden, getting angry; the verb erzürnen stems from der Zorn (wrath)
ein starkes Stück colloquial = Skandal, Unverschämtheit (impudence)


The KOMPONIST’s words:

verschaffen vb = organisieren, besorgen, to get something
eintrichtern vb = The verb eintrichtern stems from der Trichter (funnel) and from an 16th century pedagogic textbook that suggests teaching and learning through drill and dull repetition.
Sinnbild n = symbol
schmachten vb = to yearn for someone or something melancholically
trachten (nach) vb = etwas haben und machen wollen, to pursue

The TANZMEISTER’s words:

Es geht wie am Schnürchen colloquial = alles funktioniert perfekt, das Schnürchen = eine dünne Schnur (string, cord)
entflohen adj, vb participle of entfliehen = to flee


Gemütsaufwallung f surge of emotions, emotionality; das Gemüt = mind, Aufwallung = surge

The LAKAI’s words:

Leidenschaft f = passion
Tafel f = table with delicious food


Verstiegenheit f = Exzentrik (in a negativ way)
töricht adj = foolish; stems from der Tor = the fool; das Tor (different article!) = gate
das Brandenburger Tor (Berlin landmark), der Brandenburger Tor (fool from Brandenburg)

The PRIMADONNA’s (Ariadne’s) word:

in einen Topf werfen colloquial = to put someone under one category with others – unjustifiedly; der Top = the pot; werfen = to throw



Sei’n wir wieder gut: The Composer’s Relief

Examine the aria “Sei’n wir wieder gut” – a warm-up for the upcoming workshop “Ariadne auf Naxos” on February 6th. More information below.


Sei’n wir wieder gut” is an aria of the opera Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss. In it the character of der Komponist, performed by a mezzo-soprano, praises music as “the sacred one among the arts,” die heilige unter den Künsten.

He has endured some humiliation after he arrived at the palace of Vienna’s richest man. He was to present his opera seria “Ariadne auf Naxos,” when he learned that he has to share the stage and the performing time with the commeddia dell’arte troupe of the coquettish performer Zerbinetta. At first, der Komponist had refused, but then Zerbinetta persuaded him in the most flirtatious way to play along – successfully.

The tension falls away from his heart, when he proclaims to his impresario (der Musiklehrer) in an imperative, “Sei’n wir wieder gut.”


die Tiefen (plural) = die Tiefe, noun created from the adjective tief (deep)

die Tiefe = depth

das Dasein = existence as a philosophical term; da (there, here) + sein (to be)

unermesslich = immeasurable, fathomless; messen = to measure

manches = some things, derived from the pronoun and the article word manch = some, e.g. manchmal = sometimes

unterlegen = here: to add text to music; legen = to lay, under = unter

recht gut = pretty good; recht stems from richtig = correct.

lieblich = lovely

fürchterlich = horrible, dreadful; die Furcht = fear

der Mutige = noun indicating a person and derived from the adjective mutig; a person who is courageous. In German we can derive a noun describing a person from any adjective: der Ungeduldige (the impatient one, male), die Schnelle (the fast one, feminine), du Guter (the good one, male)

versammeln = to gather (people); sammeln = to gather, collect things

The aria begins with an imperative; the Komponist addresses himself and his impresario, so, he has to conjugate the verb sein accordingly (for first person plural wir).

Lets be good again!”
The verb sein is irregular. In imperative: (du) sei, (Sie) seien Sie, (ihr) seid, (wir) seien wir

Ich sehe jetzt alles mit anderen Augen!

It continues with a statement of change and reconciliation, a phrase German-speaking people would say also today when they change their view on things.

Now, I see everything with different eyes.”

Die Tiefen des Daseins sind unermesslich!
Mein lieber Freund,

Es gibt manches auf der Welt,

Das lässt sich nicht sagen,

In a straightforward language, the Komponist ends the statement with a conclusive thought.

The depths of existence are immeasurable! My dear friend,
There are some things in the world
That cannot be said. (Or: That cannot be expressed.)”

The combination reflexive + lassen + infinitive expresses a form of the passive voice when something can be done or is possible to be done. Das lässt sich nicht sagen = literally it lets itself not be said.

Die Dichter unterlegen ja recht gute Worte, recht gute.

Jedoch, jedoch, jedoch, jedoch, jedoch! –
Mut ist in mir, Mut, Freund!

The Komponist explains why some things cannot be expressed with words, which are after all the tools of poets. At first he praises the poets. They unterlegen (to add text to music or to highlight) pretty good words (recht gute Worte) but he modifies the praise with the particle ja, preparing the listener for an opposing or restrictive statement which opens with jedoch (however) – five times!
“Courage is in me, courage, friend!”

Die Welt ist lieblich

Und nicht fürchterlich dem Mutigen.

This sentence begins and ends with a noun, and in between the Komponist describes how the world relates to the courageous person. To the courageous person, the world is lovely and not terrible.

The phrase fürchterlich dem Mutigen appears as dative. Der Mutige is the indirect object and therefore must be expressed as dative while the adjective belongs to the predicate of the sentence. (Die Welt ist lieblich und nicht fürchterlich.)

Und was ist denn Musik?

Now, the Komponist begins to muse about music and to praise music, here adding the intensifier denn, making this a rhetorical question.

Musik ist eine heilige Kunst zu versammeln

Alle Arten von Mut wie Cherubim

Um einen strahlenden Thron, das ist Musik.

The librettist von Hofmannsthal, chose a word order similar to English:
“Music is a sacred art to gather
all kinds of courage, like cherubim
Around a shining throne; that is music.”

As in English, cherubim is plural for cherub, a biblical angel who guards paradise.

Und darum ist sie die heilige unter den Künsten.

And therefore, it is the sacred one among the arts.”

The pronoun sie stands for die Musik. Please note that the Komponist does not say that music is the most sacred art. He says, there is only one art that is sacred: music.

Workshop “Seien wir wieder gut – The Linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos”
Monday, February 6,
7 pm – 9 pm
Prachtwerk Cafe (Conference room), Ganghoferstraße 2, Berlin-Neukölln.

The event is free. Register at



The text of this article is an excerpt from the book “Ach ich fühl’s – German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing”.
More information about the book: Click.




Workshop: The Linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos

In this house in Berlin on Heerstraße 2 in Charlottenburg, near Theodor-Heuss-Platz (U2), Richard Strauss wrote Ariadne auf Naxos in 1916. A little bit than 100 years later, we will talk about the language of this opera – in Berlin as well, on Ganghoferstraße 2 in Neukölln, near Karl-Marx-Straße (U7).



The fourth workshop of the series “German for Opera Singers” has the topic:

Seien wir wieder gut – The Linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos

Goal: The participants will understand the language of the libretto, the vocabulary and its subtleties, and how meaning, emotions and attitudes are expressed in the structure of sentences.

Content: Using chosen arias and excerpts of recitatives we will examine

- personal pronouns (Er, dero etc.) and what kind of relationships they reflect between the characters,
– word order (involving dative, accusative etc.) and where the librettist wants to put his emphasis,
– genitive and where and how it appears,
– particulates (doch, halt, noch etc.) and the emotions and attitudes they carry,
– swearwords and how strong and grave they are,

- fixed phrases, so called collocations (connections of words), that help to memorize parts of the text
– Viennese phrases and their charms, and what they reveal or hide.

What you can do: Bring your questions and your arias to discuss their language.

Who consults: Bernd Hendricks, German Language Consultant and author of the book

Ach ich fühl’s – German for
Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing.

Time: Monday, February 6, 7 pm – 9 pm

Place: Prachtwerk Cafe, conference room, Ganghoferstr. 2

Price: The workshop is free. A small donation to cover the rent of the room would be appreciated.

Review: I would like to ask the participants to rate and review the workshop in social media, and for the blog “Ach ich fühl’s – German for Opera Singers”. The workshop will be documented with photos, in a video or/and with an article for blogs and other publications.

Register: www.facebook.com/events/234371370305623/




Strauss lived in this building on Heerstraße 2 between 1913 and 1917. The plaque on the wall mentions that he composed here also Die Frau ohne Schatten. He left Berlin in Mai 1918 to work for the Hofoper in Vienna.


In the Eye of the Sopranos

What do singers say about the workshops
“German for Opera Singers”?

In a few days, you will be able to improve your writing skills for creating an e-mail audition request and putting together a CV in German.

What? With the topic “Ich komme. Haben Sie Zeit?”, I will conduct the third workshop of the series German for Opera Singers.

Bring your CV, cover letter, e-mail drafts etc.

Where? Prachtwerk Cafe, Ganghoferstraße 2, Berlin-Neukölln, conference room

When? Monday, January 23, 7 pm – 9 pm

How much? The workshop is free. A small donation to cover the (really low) rent of the room would be appreciated.

What do participants of previous workshops think?



It was really helpful! The entire session was done in German, which was really good for me as a non-native speaker. I would absolutely recommend friends work with Bernd. He focused on the things I needed to work on and was able to adapt to my language level without dumbing it down. He also gave me feedback on my CV, which was hugely helpful. I will absolutely work with Bernd again and I wholeheartedly recommend him to others!
Danielle Musick, Soprano, USA



For me, writing in German is not an easy task, especially when it comes to formal letter writing, and even more so when it comes to the oh so scary task of writing for agents!
Bernd’s workshop attacked all these issues, and in such a friendly and practical manner that the task really doesn’t seem as scary as before!

Maayan Goldenfeld, Soprano, Israel


I thought it was wonderfully interactive; I like how we had to say example email sentences that were written on the board. There is often a gap between speaking and writing and this class helped to close that gap. For instance, I have good example email drafts which I frequently reuse because I’m afraid that I don’t quite understand the nuances of the written German enough to change things for the situation. However, there are many instances in which I want to create new sentences for emails and feel intimidated and turn immediately to ‘google translate’ for help. I brought my computer to the workshop, but I thought it was great that we did not use our computers. We had to try to formulate sentences on our own and then we discussed them.
Samantha Britt, Lyric Coloratur Soprano, USA

Register here: https://www.facebook.com/events/161135214373900/