David Marton

© Matthias
David Marton was born in Budapest in 1975. He studied piano from 1994 to 1999 at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest and Berlin University of the Arts. Subsequently, he took a course in conducting and music theatre direction at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler in Berlin.

In the theatre, he worked initially as a musician for directors like Frank Castorf, Christoph Marthaler and Árpád Schilling. David Marton began developing projects of his own in 2003, since when he has become well known as a director who moves freely across the boundaries between spoken theatre and music theatre. His productions have included a version of Lulu based on Frank Wedekind's play and Alban Berg's opera at the Schauspiel Hannover in 2009, and Die Heimkehr des Odysseus (The Return of Odysseus) , based on motifs in the work of Claudio Monteverdi, two years later at the Berlin Schaubühne.

His Fairy Queen, oder hätte ich Glenn Gould nicht kennen gelernt (The Fairy-Queen, or had I not become acquainted with Glenn Gould, after Henry Purcell), a piece conceived for the Sophiensaele in Berlin, was invited to the Zurich Theater Spektakel festival in 2006 and the Impulse festival in 2007. In 2009, the theatre magazine Die Deutsche Bühne chose David Marton as its opera director of the year.
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Portrait: David Marton

His father was a painter, his mother was a translator and little David played piano. It was already possible to sense the Iron Curtain beginning to crumble towards the end of the 1980s in Hungary. The twelve-year-old attended a conservatoire in Budapest, and it looked as though he was predestined for a career as a pianist. However, as he tells interviewers today, that way of life would have been too constrained, too disciplined and solitary. After 1999, when David Marton transferred to the Berlin Academy of Music Hanns Eisler to study piano there for a year, his plans for the future changed as well. Marton was in his mid-twenties, started a course in conducting and music theatre direction, became a theatre musician, and worked for directors like Frank Castorf, Árpád Schilling and Christoph Marthaler.

More than anything else, it is surely his work with Christoph Marthaler that has been crucial to David Marton as he has explored the interstices between spoken and music theatre, an approach that has made him much in demand as a director and author who scripts his own productions. It has been an integral element of his work from the very beginning that he retells well known dramatic material in a quite unique fashion. In 2005, for instance, he took on Henry Purcell’s The Fairy-Queen at the Sophiensaele in Berlin, adding oder hätte ich Glenn Gould nicht kennen gelernt (or had I not become acquainted with Glenn Gould) to the title. This was a programmatic move that sent out a clear message: Here is Purcell’s masque, based as it is on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but spoken and music theatre have evolved since then and I, David Marton, am now taking the liberty of using all this to construct my own dramatic narrative.

This attitude is also evident when he transforms pieces of literature for the stage, as in his version of Péter Esterházy’s Austro-Hungarian family epic Celestial Harmonies at the Vienna Burgtheater in 2008. He collaged literary topoi with musical arrangements of Haydn, Schubert, Verdi, Bartok, free jazz and pop songs, exploiting the abundance of rhythmic and tonal associations that occurred to him while he was adapting the novel. Marton plunges into the reception history of classical and neoclassical themes, demonstrating above all his close affinity with topoi that have left behind a deep impression on both spoken and music theatre.

In 2009, he combined Frank Wedekind’s ‘monstrous tragedy’ Lulu and the libretto of Alban Berg’s operatic fragment at the Schauspiel Hannover. The pianist and arranger Jan Czajkowski, Marton’s closest artistic collaborator, worked with him on this staging, as he has on various other projects. Czajkowski belongs to the small family of artists with whom David Marton now puts on productions at major venues from Berlin to Vienna, creating kaleidoscopic visions that uncover hidden aspects of apparently all-too familiar stories.

In the case of Claudio Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, this results in an interrogation of the inevitable intertwining of love and power that is simultaneously indebted to both the original work and our contemporary world. Die Heimkehr des Odysseus (The Return of Odysseus), produced in 2011 at the Berlin Schaubühne, tells the story of a hero who is for ever returning home but never arriving, while Odysseus’s son Telemachus competes with his mother’s importunate suitors and Penelope herself tries to preserve a small area of privacy in her own palace with red-and-white barrier tape.

Alissa Kolbusch, who is also a member of Marton’s permanent team, has once again designed a stage that is a landscape of the mind at the same time as it is a landscape where events unfold. This too is typical of David Marton’s productions: In the course of rehearsals, the theatrical narrative becomes a sonic and spatial experience that bestows a new urgency upon his classical characters.

According to David Marton, Christoph Marthaler has been ‘the most significant and greatest figure of the last few decades’ in the field of music theatre. Indeed, as Marton says, it is Marthaler who has shifted music and its forms to the heart of drama and freed it from ‘serving as a mere accompaniment to epic action’. The exciting thing about David Marton’s theatre is that he genuinely does compose stage epic narratives, but in such a way that audiences no longer ask themselves where spoken theatre ends and music theatre begins.
Jürgen Berger

Productions - A selection

  • "Doubles"
    Musical Theatre after motives by E.T.A. Hoffmann
    2014, Schauspiel Stuttgart
  • "The Well-Tempered Piano"
    Musical Theatre after Johann Sebastian Bach
    using the novel "The Melancholy of Resistance"
    byLászló Krasznahorkai
    2012, Théâtre de Bobigny M.C. 93, Paris, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin >
  • "Rhinegold", Musical Theatre after Richard Wagner
    2011, Staatsschauspiel Dresden/Vienna Festival
  • "The Return of Ulysses", after Claudio Monteverdi with texts by Homer, Giacomo Badoaro, Péter Esterházy, in an adaption by the Ensemble
    2011, Schaubühne, Berlin
  • After Claudio Monteverdi "The Coronoation of Poppea"
    2010, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • "Insomnia"
    2009 Königliches Schauspielhaus, Kopenhagen
  • After Frank Wedekind and Alban Berg"Lulu"
    2009, Staatsschauspiel, Hannover
  • After Péter Esterházy"Harmonia Caelestis"
    2008, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • "Don Giovanni - keine Pause" (i.e. "Don Giovanni – No Rest")
    2008 Sophiensaele, Berlin
  • After Georg Büchner and Alban Berg"Wozzeck"
    2007, Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin
  • "Café Vaterland. Eine Matthäuspassion" (i.e. "Café Fatherland. A St, Matthew Passion"), after Johann Sebastian Bach "St. Matthew Passion" and texts by Werner Heisenberg
    2007, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • After Valeri Brjussow "The Fiery Angel"
    2006, Sophiensaele, Berlin
  • After Henry Purcell"The Fairy Queen, oder hätte ich Glenn Gould nicht kennen gelernt" (i.e. "The Fairy Queen or had I not become acquainted with Glenn Gould")
    2005, Sohiensaele, Berlin
  • After Bertolt Brecht/Paul Dessau "Lukullus Etude" (i.e. "Etude by Lukullus")
    2005 Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • "Nackt, entblößt sogar" (i.e. "Naked, Even Bare"), a musical theatre evening after Carl Maria von Weber ("The Freeshooter")
    2004, Villa Elisabeth/Sophiensaele, Berlin