'Ein Wunder' to look forward to
Das Wunder der Heliane (Erich Wolfgang Korngold) - Opera Vlaanderen
In the year of his 120th birthday, 60 years after his death, the Opera Vlaanderen presents Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane. An opera that's not immediately spoiled with too many performances (there is actually only one good, complete recording of it - in Decca's series Entartete Music). Besides the doubts surrounding its artistic merits, the low performance quantity of Heliane will undoubtedly be a consequence of the opera's very large line-up (we have, amongst a lot more, a few chorusses, a piano, organ, celestal, harmonium, and extensive wind and brass sections - including a heckelphone or two, a baritone oboe, 1.4 metres in length, also used by Richard Strauss in Salome).
Das Wunder der Heliane from 1927 was Korngold's last opera before he surrendered to the operetta and Hollywood. In Hollywood, he would provide Errol Flynn with many an appropriate leitmotif (he wrote music for many films including Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood). Korngold, the child prodigy (Mahler compared him to Mozart), was more than once accused of epigonism in his time. His Heliane would sound too much like film music, while it was Heliane (composed almost a decade before Korngold would come up with his first full film score) that proved to be a blueprint for his own film music with which he would influence many others - both Max Steiner (King Kong - 1933) and John Williams (Star Wars) were indebted to him. "Operas without words", Korngold called his film scores. They would stain his reputation as a "serious" composer.
After his Nozze di Figaro, for the National Opera in Amsterdam last season, David Bösch will sign for this production of Heliane for Opera Vlaanderen. Modern stage props are to be expected (he once put the count in Figaro on a home trainer for instance) and a natural Personenregie that concentrates on the action (and should save us from the notorious park and bark). I'm curious to see what he will do with the sexuality in the piece. Will he treat it more metaphorically and metaphysically (sex as a depiction of the struggle between good and evil) or more literally: a hymn on the sexual act when carried out between lovers? To see this incredibly sumptuous composed opera fully staged (at last) will be something to look forward to.
Heliane: Ausrine Stundyte
Der Herrscher: Tómas Tómasson
Der Fremde: Ian Storey
Conductor: Alexander Joel
15 - 23 September (Ghent)
1 - 10 October (Antwerp)
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