OP0158. DIE TOTE STADT (Korngold), Live Performance, 18 Aug., 2004, Salzburg, w.Runnicles Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Torsten Kerl, Angela Denoke, Bo Skovhus, Daniela Denschlog, etc. (Germany) 2-Orfeo C 634 0421, w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Final Copy! - 4011790634227
"DIE TOTE STADT (The Dead City) is an opera in three acts by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The libretto is by a fictitious Paul Schott (actually a pseudonym for the true librettists, the composer and the composer’s father Julius Korngold), and is based on BRUGES-LA-MORTE, a short novel by Georges Rodenbach.
When DIE TOTE STADT had its première on 4 December, 1920, Korngold was just 23 years old with two short one-act operas, DER RING DES POLYKRATES and VIOLANTA, already to his name. The success of these earlier works was so great that DIE TOTE STADT was subject to a fierce competition among German theaters for the right to the world première.
In the end, an unusual double première was arranged and the opera opened simultaneously in Hamburg and Cologne. In Cologne the conductor was Otto Klemperer, and his wife Johanna sang Marietta. In Hamburg Korngold himself was in the theater, and the conductor was Egor Pollak. DIE TOTE STADT’s theme of overcoming the loss of a loved one resonated with contemporary audiences of the 1920s who had just come through the trauma and grief of World War I, and this undoubtedly fueled the opera’s popularity.
DIE TOTE STADT was one of the greatest hits of the 1920s. Within two years of its première it had circled the globe and even received several performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. But the work was banned by the Nazi régime because of Korngold’s Jewish ancestry, and after World War II it fell into obscurity.”
“A child prodigy, Erich played his cantata GOLD to Gustav Mahler in 1906; Mahler called him a ‘musical genius’ and recommended study with composer Alexander von Zemlinsky. Richard Strauss also spoke very highly of the youth. At the age of 11 he composed his ballet DER SCHNEEMANN (The Snowman), which became a sensation when performed at the Vienna Court Opera in 1910, including a command performance for Emperor Franz Josef. This work was followed first with a piano trio, then his Piano Sonata # 2 in E major, which Artur Schnabel played throughout Europe.
Korngold wrote his first orchestral score, the SCHAUSPIEL OUVERTURE when he was 14. His Sinfonietta appeared the following year, and his first two operas, DER RING DES POLYKRATES and VIOLANTA, in 1914. He completed his opera DIE TOTE STADT, which became an international success, in 1920 at the age of 23. At this point Korngold had reached the zenith of his fame as a composer of opera and concert music. Composers such as Richard Strauss and Giacomo Puccini heaped praise on him, and many famous conductors, soloists and singers added his works to their repertoires. He completed a Concerto for Piano Left Hand for pianist Paul Wittgenstein in 1923 and his fourth opera, DAS WUNDER DER HELIANE four years later. He also started arranging and conducting operettas by Johann Strauss II and others while teaching opera and composition at the Vienna Staatsakademie. Korngold was awarded the title professor honoris causa by the president of Austria.
Max Reinhardt, with whom Korngold had collaborated on the operettas DIE FLEDERMAUS and LA BELLE HELENE, asked the composer to come to Hollywood in 1934 to adapt Felix Mendelssohn's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM incidental music for his film version of the play. Over the next four years, he became a pioneer in composing film scores that have been recognized ever since as classics of their kind.”