Friday, March 20, 2020

Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane

Conductor: Marc Albrecht 
Stage director:  Christof Loy  

Heliane: Sara Jakubiak
The Ruler, her husband: Josef Wagner
The Stranger: Brian Jagde
The Messenger: Okka Von der Damerau
The Doorman: Derek Welton
The Blind Judge: Burkhard Ulrich
The Young Man: Gideon Poppe

From Deutsche Oper Berlin from 2018 on we have Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane, 1927.  I am watching it because Lotte Lehmann said Heliane was her favorite role.  It is the outer extreme of post Romanticism.

In Act I there are three characters:  The Stranger, the Ruler and his wife Heliane.  She is the only one with an actual name.  The Ruler is pissed because his wife doesn't love him.  So he kills anyone who seems happy, including The Stranger who wanders into town and cheers people up.  While he is in jail awaiting his execution, Heliane comes in to comfort him.  She announces herself as the Queen.  This is one of the wildest scenes in opera.  At The Stranger's request she first takes down her hair, then takes off her shoes, and finally takes off everything else.  Is this part of comforting?  So did Lotte like the nudity?  Husband comes back and things go from bad to worse.  The music is very intense.

In Act II Heliane is tried for being unfaithful to her husband.  The blind Judge enters, and both The Ruler and Heliane call him Father.  He speaks to Heliane as though she were a child, so I presume that he is her father.  She testifies in a long amazing aria "Ich ging zu ihm."

The Stranger comes into the courtroom and asks to be left alone for a moment with Heliane.  The King and the Judge allow this.  Our Stranger is very persuasive and gets Heliane to kiss him "for the first and last time."  She does, and he stabs himself and dies.

The chorus enters complaining that The Stranger has been taken from them.  She tells her husband she is pure and he decides that if she is pure she will bring The Stranger back to life.  The act ends with her swearing that she will.

The ending in Act III is complex.  The Stranger rises from the dead, but this only enrages the King who stabs his wife.  You should know it has a happy ending.  What is one to make of such a thing?  They played it very low key, but the music is large and soaring.  I'm glad I took the time to see it.



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