Korngold: The Lifeless Metropolis (Die tote Stadt); Rolf Romei, Allison Oakes, Sarah Connolly, Audun Iversen, director: Annilese Miskimmon, conductor: Kyrill Karabits; English Nationwide Opera at London Coliseum
Reviewed 31 March 2023
Korngold’s phantasmagorical opera for the primary time at ENO in a extremely theatrical manufacturing with sturdy performances
Korngold’s Die tote Stadt has not appeared a lot in London, this manufacturing was English Nationwide Opera’s first presentation of it, right here referred to as by its English translation, The Lifeless Metropolis. The UK premiere was, amazingly, in 1996 (a live performance efficiency with Russell Keable conducting the Kensington Symphony Orchestra) while the Royal Opera’s manufacturing in 2009 was the UK stage premiere.
At ENO, Annilese Miskimmon directed Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, with set designs by Miriam Buether and costumes by Nicky Gillibrand. Rolf Romei was Paul, Allison Oakes was Marietta/voice of Marie, Sarah Connolly was Brigitta and Audun Iversen was Franz.
A piece of music-theatre by a Viennese composer based mostly on a German translation of a serious work by a Belgian Symbolist. Fascinatingly this reasonably tortuous description will be utilized each to Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Erich Korngold’s Die tote Stadt. Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire was based mostly on the poetic cycle Pierrot Lunaire by Belgian Symbolist poet Albert Giraud. Schoenberg set a complete of 21 poems in German translations by Otto Erich Hartleben, whose translations had been additionally set by Joseph Marx. The fascination for the work of the Symbolists will be understood within the wider context of Austrian expressionism, in music transferring from the tonal experiments of Strauss to Schoenberg to Webern and Berg. And an inventive context this hyperlinks to the Vienna Secession motion (Nineties to 1914)
|Korngold: The Lifeless Metropolis – Allison Oakes – English Nationwide Opera (Photograph Helen Murray)|
Korngold’s Die tote Stadt has related origins; it was based mostly on Bruges-la-morte, a brief novel by the Belgian writer Georges Rodenbach, printed in 1892 and thought to be the archetypal Symbolist novel. Korngold and his father’s libretto for the opera was based mostly on a German translation by a buddy of Korngold’s father of Rodenbach’s personal play based mostly on the e book.
The distinction between the 2, nevertheless, is that of date. Pierrot Lunaire premiered in 1912, on the top of the Vienna Secession, while Die tote Stadt got here after the horrors of the First World Struggle. Neither work truly premiered in Vienna, one in Berlin, the opposite in Hamburg.
In a means, you are feeling that in Die tote Stadt, Korngold’s first full-length opera (he was 23 on the time of its premiere) was reminiscent of the sooner period. In order that musically, the work appears to narrate to Richard Strauss’ two early hits Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909), with the dimensions of the orchestra, the lushness of the orchestration, the romantic language and the large calls for made on the lead singers/
Korngold was 17 when the First World Struggle started, by which period he was already a major composer. A toddler prodigy, writing his first orchestral rating when he was 14, his Sinfonietta when he was 15 and his first two operas Der Ring des Polykrates and Violanta, in 1914. After Die tote Stadt, the sense of Korngold wanting again continued as a lot of the Nineteen Twenties had been dedicated to his exhumation and recreation of Johann Strauss operettas, in order that A Night time in Venice, Cagliostro in Vienna and Waltzes from Vienna are Korngold creations based mostly on Strauss’ music.
|Korngold: The Lifeless Metropolis – Rolf Romei, Rhian Lois, William Morgan, Clare Presland, Hubert Francis, Harmless Masuku – English Nationwide Opera (Photograph Helen Murray)|
For Korngold’s fourth opera, Das Wunder der Heliane, he returned to the magic interval of pre-Struggle Vienna, selecting to base the opera on Der Heilige by Hans Kaltneker, an Austrian poet and playwright who was one of many most important exponents of Austrian Expressionism and who died younger in 1919. Kaltneker described Der Heilige as an anarchist-visionary thriller for music!
Die tote Stadt has all the time appeared a wierd, hallucinogenic work, one whose actual dramaturgy stays open to dialogue and exploration. Studying opinions of this manufacturing, it has been fascinating to see what number of colleagues have a definite, set view of the work and their opinions usually had a bent to level out the ways in which Annilese Miskimmon’s manufacturing departed from this ‘good’ view. However as we’ve seen Korngold was putting his opera not within the Nineteen Twenties, however within the context of Symbolism and Expressionism, the place nothing is fastened and every little thing is open to interpretation.
The Korngolds’ libretto reduces the function performed by Bruges within the plot, and this was additional shaded away in Miskimmon’s manufacturing as we stayed firmly in Paul’s shrine to Marie, with occasions of act two and three going down not in some theatrical Bruges, however spilling over into the shrine. And Buether’s setting was not some interval inside however a trendy modernist one. For the entire of act two, the border between the actual and fantasy was blurred, which meant that the violence and supreme homicide had been much less stunning than normal. Miskimmon was extra concerned about what was occurring in Paul’s head reasonably than in schlocky violence. The Pierrot gamers in Act Two blurred in Paul’s thoughts with the medical crew who taken care of Marie in her final sickness, the mattress within the shrine is even Marie’s hospital mattress.
|Korngold: The Lifeless Metropolis – Sarah Connolly, Rolf Romei, Audun Iversen – English Nationwide Opera (Photograph Helen Murray)|
The end result was a manufacturing with actual theatrical dazzle, the rear wall would disappear and processions stroll previous (Marie’s funeral in Act Two, the Corpus Christi procession in Act Three). For Act Three, choirboys appeared by the hearth beneath the memorial to Marie, the hyperlink between the crimson of the roses and of blood was in every single place. This meant that the Pierrot gamers’ efficiency in Act Two was much less a personality second and extra a continuation of the extreme drama.
Each the main roles, Marietta/Marie and Paul are large. Each when it comes to size and in addition having to journey Korngold’s large orchestra. Economics and problem are clearly components within the work’s relative neglect. Each Romei and Oakes had been introduced as recovering from colds, however this appeared to have little actual affect on their performances.
Allison Oakes was in ravishing voice, she had the ability to journey the orchestra but her Marietta was additionally charming, skittish and seductive, while the ability innate in her voice turned spectacular in Act Three when Marietta turns into more and more jealous of Paul’s obsession together with his late spouse. For Paul’s scene with Marie, after we hear her voice, Oakes’ voiced Marie in a means that sounded completely completely different and actually fitted with actor Lauren Bridle’s ethereal portrayal of Marie.
|Korngold: The Lifeless Metropolis – Rhian Lois, Clare Presland, Hubert Francis, Allison Oakes, William Morgan, Harmless Masuku, Audun Iversen – English Nationwide Opera (Photograph Helen Murray)|
Paul is just a killer function, excessive, driving the orchestra and lengthy, as if Korngold was persevering with his emulation of Strauss’ Elektra and Salome by creating an identical killer tenor function. Swiss tenor, Rolf Romei didn’t have probably the most grateful of voices, it’s slender focus, with vivid laser gleam and on the prime, reasonably excessive rigidity. However then, all through the opera, Paul is a mass of rigidity and what conveyed the music was the best way Romei acted, the best way he introduced out each nuance of Paul’s intense journey, from cowering within the nook to strangling Marietta.
Audun Iversen was superbly sober and wise as Paul’s buddy, Franz, in Acts One and Three, however reworked right into a splendidly demented priest in Act Two. Simply as Paul’s fever goals reworked the Pierrots into the medical crew, Franz turned the priest who gave Marie final rites. Iversen’s account of the Pierrot tune was very positive right here certainly. Sarah Connolly was luxurious casting as housekeeper Brigitta, investing the function with a larger significance than normal, and managing to return over as nearly Mrs Danvers-like (as in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca).
The smaller roles, the Pierrot gamers in Act Two had been all properly taken, giving us a riotous second that turned more and more phantasmagorical, with Rhian Lois as Julietta, Clare Presland as Lucienne, Harmless Masuku as Gastone, William Morgan as Victorin and Hubert Francis as Depend Albert.
The English textual content was ‘based mostly on a translation by Kelley Rourke’, easy and direct, it maybe lacked the poetry that may have been perfect. However, given the demanding nature of the vocal music, not surprisingly a lot of the textual content was occluded, although it was clear that the 2 non-English audio system within the forged, Romei and Iversen, had been singing in additional than creditable English.
Within the pit (and spilling out into the stage bins), Kirill Karabits and the orchestra introduced out a beautiful expressivity and lushness to the music. All through the sound of the orchestra was wealthy and complicated, luxurious even, actually matching the texture of the drama.
The end result was very a lot fin de siecle extravagance. I do know that the opera will be seen as a means of coping with the guilt from World Struggle I, however frankly, for a lot of the time, it appeared way more of an escape right into a fin de siecle world. Korngold appears to have efficiently caught the temper, whereas his Italian up to date Italo Montemezzi failed to take action. Montemezzi’s La Nave (which premiered in 1918) treads an identical world of fin de siecle extravagance, large orchestra, and demanding solo roles, but was by no means in style.
|Korngold: The Lifeless Metropolis – Rolf Romei – English Nationwide Opera (Photograph Helen Murray)|
I’ve to admit, that I might love to listen to Die tote Stadt obtain the trendy remedy, with somebody producing a chamber model of the rating in order that it might be sung as extra of an intimate chamber piece. It appears to be crying out for an imaginative remedy at Grimeborn.
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