OP0156. Der Geburtstag der Infantin (The Dwarf) (Zemlinsky), recorded 1983, w.Gerd Albrecht Cond. Berlin Radio S.O.; Inga Nielsen, Béatrice Haldas, Kennth Riegel, Dieter Weller, Cheryl Studer, etc. (Austria) Schwann Musica Mundi 11626, w.full Libretto. Long out-of-print, final excellent, very sl.used copy!
“DER ZWERG (The Dwarf) (or DER GEBURTSTAG DER INFANTIN), Op.17 is an opera in one act by Austrian composer Alexander von Zemlinsky to a libretto by Georg Klaren, freely adapted from the short story THE BIRTHDAY OF THE INFANTA by Oscar Wilde. Zemlinsky's choice of this story was a reflection of the end of his relationship with Alma Mahler, and the identification he felt with the drama's main character. He completed the short score in December 1919 and the orchestration in January 1921.
The opera's premiere took place on 28 May 1922 at the Stadttheater in Cologne, Germany under the baton of Otto Klemperer. Its last performance in Zemlinsky's lifetime was in 1926 in Berlin-Charlottenburg. The work runs for approximately 90 minutes and is usually paired with another work when performed. In 1981, the Hamburg State Opera presented the first double-bill of Zemlinsky's two one-act operas DER ZWERG and EINE FLORENTINISCHE TRAGÖDIE. DER ZWERG, however, was presented in an abridged version with a substantially altered libretto under the title THE BIRTHDAY OF THE INFANTA. The first modern performances of the opera as Zemlinsky intended it were given in Cologne in February 1996 under the direction of James Conlon.
At the birthday celebrations of the Infanta (or Spanish princess) Donna Clara, a dwarf is sent as a present from a Sultan. Unaware of his physical deformity, the dwarf becomes infatuated with the Infanta, singing her a song of love and imagining himself as a brave knight. She toys with him and gives him a present of a white rose. Left on his own, he accidentally uncovers a mirror and sees his own reflection for the first time. In great agitation, he tries to obtain a kiss from the Infanta, but she spurns this, telling him he is a monster. He is heart broken, he dies clutching the white rose as the Infanta rejoins the party.”
"Gerd Albrecht was a prolific recording artist who spent almost his entire career in Germany with the exception of posts at the Zurich Tonhalle and Danish Radio and four years (1993-96) when he was controversially elected chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently deposed.
In the introduction to the German edition of my book THE MAESTRO MYTH, I reported that Albrecht had won the Czech vote by promising a record contract that he could not deliver. Albrecht applied to have the book banned, but the judicial process never got off the ground after Czech musicians supplied me with the incriminating faxes. In the immediate post-communist confusion, a part of the orchestra had become bedazzled by the prospect of western wealth.
Albrecht’s Wikipedia entry describes his period in Prague as ‘a musical success’. Not many who heard the orchestra in that time would share that conclusion. It was an unhappy period, ending in a bust-up with the President, Vaclav Havel. Albrecht left behind a deeply divided orchestra. He was invited back for further engagements at the 2004 Salzburg Festival and for a 2006 South America tour. The orchestra has lately reverted to Jirí Belohlávek, the music director whom Albrecht displaced. From 1997 to 2007, Gerd Albrecht was principal conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. Since September 2012 he has been musical director of the Besançon International Music Festival.
His podium work can be judged on more than 50 recordings, some of them reviving music by Schreker, Korngold and other composers who were banned under the Nazi regime. Albrecht’s father had been an official in that regime.”
- Norman Lebrecht, 3 Feb., 2014