A discourse with Juliette Mars is by no means a run-of-the-mill interview. It is no simple ask-reply game, lazily checking the boxes, but so much more: from the beginning, it is about finding purpose in life both professional and personal. And yet it all started so simple. Mars discovered her passion through film, more precisely George Cukor´s rendition of The Lady of the Camellias, which fascinated her as a child. Shortly thereafter, her sister gifted her with a copy of La traviata´s libretto, as well as Ingmar-Bergman´s The Magic Flute. And since making music had always been part of her family life,
She started taking choir and cello lessons, following in the footsteps of her older sister, a professional cello player: “School was always keeping me, but playing on the weekends liberated me. It was fantastic.” Asked what other professions she would consider, she said “Mailman, for he has people´s trust, and baker, because it is an artisan job.” Both are, of course, rather down-to-earth prospects, whereas being an opera singer is a somewhat loftier proposition: “As an opera singer, you don´t work your throat to make songs come, out, you work, as Louis Jôuvet put it, your emotions, and you try to communicate those emotions through your voice and your eyes. Of course I also think about what comes after a singer´s career. But believe, without trying to grandstand, that singing, that opera at large, has a purpose. I may not make a breakfast, I may not deliver letters, but my colleagues and I can help people to spend a few good, beautiful hours. Would I lose my ability to sing, I would not be sad because I can no longer sing; I would be sad because I would no longer be able to share my singing with others.” For this reason, an audience is an absolute must for Juliette Mars: “For me, Music ought to be shared like a good meal, no matter whether with family or an opera´s audience. And with the same quality.” Though singing for her is a very elemental, personal means of expression, uniquely qualified to formulate and communicate her emotions: “Who I am, what I feel, I cannot express better than through music. I can serenade life´s beauty through music, I can convey how I feel. Of course I might try the same with words, but it would never have the same precision, the same quality as my singing. And most importantly: If I express something through music, I am true to myself as I am through no other form of communication.” Through this, so Mars, music is also a search for one´s self, an experience of one´s self: “Whatever I experience onstage, I do not experience as the character, I experience it as myself: As Juliette Mars.”
This also ties into the singer gaining impressions onstage: “The feelings and situations that you experience, you take with you. As Suzuki, for example, when you have to explain to your girlfriend that there simply is no more money. Or as the second dame. It rekindles the magic you experienced as the child in The Magic Flute. And such moments are everywhere.”
For her, these moments especially make her occupation fun and worthwile: “I started as Giovanna in Rigoletto, and when I look back today, I see how I have evolved, in things both big and small. Sometimes when I´m in costume, I think: This costume, that I´m wearing, I would not have measured up to four weeks ago, before the rehearsal. (…) Preparing for a role is time consuming, up to two years. A costume only weaves itself within oneself, you have to earn it. The best part for me is: there is no stagnation! There are always roles to fill, and as long as you have the curiosity for it, you always find something new, find something to develop yourself. After every hour of practice with a rêpêtiteur, I can feel how I change. I can feel how something enriched me.”
And yet: Juliette Mars stays Juliette Mars. Even when she is onstage and sings with all her passion, she differentiates: “With growing experience, you start to get some distance from your job. It is, after all, exactly that: a job. And it can never be your only purpose in life. With emotions, too, you have to keep some distance. If I may quote Diderot´s Paradoxe sur le comêdien: You have to personally keep your distance, so that the emotions may reach the hearts of your audience.”
But the interview also brings up a few contemplative, if not cautionary subjects. Like the fact that “singers more and more have to look like mannequins. You have this pressure, and many in the audience don´t even know how hard this pressure can be! Onstage, your age disappears, to be replaced by an unattainable ideal contrary to the theater´s original purpose! I for one believe that theater should stay a mirror of society. “ Still, a smile crosses her face every time she talks about her occupation, and she finds happiness and purpose in it. Every day, every performance, and in life. And that, as Juliette Mars says, is in the end the most important thing.
This is a translation of an Interview originally held in german by Mag. Oliver Láng, Dramatic advisor of the Vienna State Opera.