DIE TOTE STADT at the Deutsche Oper
The venue is a modern hall west of the Tiergarten in what was West
Berlin. The Deutsche Oper is the institution fron which Christian
Thielmann resigned the directorship in dissatisfaction with what in
Berlin had become a political football, owing to the high cost of public
support for three opera companies.
We sat in the middle of the Parkett (floor/stalls) for a very reasonable
price in very satisfactory seats. (By the way, the cost of coat checking
is included in the price of admission to Berlin and Paris events and
museums, and at the Philharmonie--unlike the opera houses, progrqms are
also free.) There were German supertitles for a German text, which helped
me considerably, except when the stage action was too fascinating to
look at them.
DIE TOTE STADT, for those who don't know it, is by Korngold, premiered
in 1920, and is based on a symbolist novel, BRUGES LA MORTE, by Georges
Rodenbach. Literally "The Dead City," it could be translated into
American English as "Ghost Town," with a double meaning: referring to
the financial ruin and depopulation of a formerly coastal, silted-in,
Belgian city which had a population larger than that of Paris during the
Renaissance; and referring to the morbid denial and fantasies of the
protagonist, Paul, who attempts to maintain an eternal love for his dead
wife in the face of the demands of an ongoing life--in the form of a
living woman whom he confounds with her --and the forceful arguments of
a friend tells him he is deluding himself, and who at the end persuades
him to leave town--this qfter he awakens from some confusing dream
The production was extremely interesting. A strongly raked stage had a
central pit, over which a bridge sometimes appeared, and which red and
blue lighting separated in a startling way. Bruges/Bru=C2=A8gge is an
extremely beautiful small city with many canals and bridges. There is
a great deal of religious symbolism, including processions of nuns, which
you will recognize if you have been to this place, and other clergy, as
well as much evidence of the dead wife's long hair and red robe.
There is a show within the show, supposedly ROBERT LE DIABLE, with a
role for the dancer Paul confounds with his wife, and which has commedia
dell'arte elements. In his dream Paul bursts into this.
The musical performance was excellent. My timed session is about
to terminate, so forgive the brevity here. Philippe Auguin conducted.
I cqnnot identify the excellent soprano or the two main male singers
because the program did not identify them by role. The orchestral sound
was very satisfying, in marked contrast to the playing qt the Staatsoper
for the Balletabend I will describe lqter.