Monday, March 25, 2013

Korngold for beginners

Yesterday at The Rest is Noise we had fun introducing newcomers to the wonderful world of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Ben Winters of the Open University gave a fascinating talk about the composer's years in America; the two of us then had quite a wide-ranging discussion, and some interesting questions came from the audience. Later on, I took part in a "bites" session with a political economist, a film historian and an art historian; each of us picked a topic that involved America finding its voice in the first half of the 20th century. Mine was Korngold and opera; I played, among other things, an extract of Marietta's Lute Song from Die tote Stadt.

It's easy to think Korngold has been rehabilitated, especially now that I've been on his case for more than two decades, but after the talk several people wanted to know, wide-eyed and open-eared, what this opera was and where they could hear more of it. It's so beautiful, they said. Why do we never hear it? The extract was too short, they said. They wanted to hear the rest.

This is an aria, indeed an opera, for anyone who has ever loved and lost.

Here is an interpretation of Marietta's Lied from the opera film Aria (1987), with some exquisite shots of Bruges, where the opera is set. (Warning: involves a bit of arty nudity.)