Die tote Stadt
Die tote Stadt, Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

Exciting to go to an opera I know nothing whatsoever about at all, even all my reference books don't once mention it. They don't even mention Korngold! Goodness, how he has been out of fashion, my dictionaries aren't that old!

But London is excited. We know Korngold wrote a lot of film music and was a child prodigy, but that is as far as my knowledge went. DIE TOTE STADT was composed when he was a mere twenty years old, formidable, even though he did get help from his dad, the foremost music critic of his time.

Obsession seems to me to be just the ticket for opera. And it works. A chap, Paul, mourns his dead wife by clutching a glass box with her long golden hair in it. A woman comes to see him but leaves when she can't distract him. The rest of the opera is a long dream of erotic and religious lust. Paul's housekeeper appears crucified. [Wouldn't mind doing that to my housekeeper sometimes!] Eventually after a couple of hours of intense singing this woman, Marietta, returns, she has forgotten her umbrella. She collects it and leaves again. We realise the dream has been but a matter of moments

Clever stuff and gripping. Only two singers, excepting tiny roles for a pierrot, a priest, Frank a friend, and the aforementioned housekeeper, plus a crew of actors and dancers. A huge work for two singers to carry in a big house. They do well.

I wondered why the production seemed somewhat old fashioned; you know the kind of thing, everything at funny angles and tipped up, walls, ceilings, and floor. All wonky; of course the production has come complete from Salzburg from 2004. For goodness sake that's five years ago!

Anyhow great to get a chance to see a Korngold work. The music hangs in there somewhere between Mahler, Wagner and Richard Strauss and is pretty good. Paul does go on and on a bit about his dead wife, but the music keeps the emotion up. Not exactly Traviata but certainly good enough to be in any opera's repertory.

Paul is sung by Stephen Gould and Marie/Marietta by Nadja Michael. Gould does the continuous angst very well and Nadja Michael sings wonderfully moving from the innocent dead wife Marie to the seductress Marietta. The latter character played with a baldhead and her body in a satin slip. She looked great.

The conductor, Ingo Metzmacher, pushes the great Covent Garden orchestra along very nicely. The lighting of Wolfgang Gobbel is spectacular and the design clever enough even if it is a bit old-fashioned.

All in all an unusual evening and great to get Korngold out from under the dustsheets. Loved it, but can't say I will run to every production listed around Europe, though this production is definitely worth catching if you are around or about Bow Street.

Polly Hope. London