Impressive? Perhaps. Sick? You make the call....
Eric D. Anderson | South Bend, IN United States | 08/05/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Under the heading "Two Jewish Scribblers", the Nazis, in their exhibition of "Degenerate Music" took a shot at a pair of Jewish opera composers, the second being Franz Schreker. "...There was no sexual pathological aberration he would not have set to music." Well, I doubt it had much to do with being a "Jewish Scribbler", but Schreker did rush in where others hesitated! I'm right there with "Salome", and many others among the "shocking works" of the 20th century, but this one left me feeling queasy."Die Gezeichneten", which premiered in 1918, has many of the characteristics that I look for in a great expressionist opera. It is ambitious, sophisticated, and highly imaginative in it's use of orchestral color. The libretto is at times richly descriptive, and the prelude is darkly haunting. One of my favorite composers, Alexander Zemlinsky, commisioned the libretto for "Gezeichneten", asking Schreker for "the tragedy of an ugly man". But Schreker decided to set it himself, and Zemlinsky went on to set his own "tragedy of an ugly many"--his masterpiece "Der Zwerg".In Schreker's version, a hunchback nobleman, Alviano, builds a world of fantastic beauty on an island he dubs "Elysium". His more attractive noble friends amuse themselves by abducting noblewomen, taking them to the island and ravishing them. Not wanting to spoil the beauty of the island, our hero doesn't participate, prefering to get his jollies the only way he can--paying cringing prostitutes. He then meets the young, beautiful, noblewoman Carlotta, who loves him for the beauty of his soul. Her monologue at the end of Act I describing this was, for me, the high point of the opera. Sadly, Carlotta, has a weak heart which can't stand activities that would...uh...overwork it, so their relationship remains unconsumated. Eventually, though, she starts to tire of her noble hunchback, and when finally Tamare, the most rapacious of his friends abducts and rapes her to death (a "her lips said 'no', her eyes said 'yes'" sort of thing), she is finally satisfied, and when Alviano rushes to her side, she dies with Tamare's name on her lips. Alviano goes mad.The music has many virtues, but even at it's most impressive seems infected with a sort of "icky" quality, that well matches the text. It is fascinating, and late romantic enthusiasts like me should check it out and form their own opinion. For those who espouse nihlistic hedonism, it might seem the greatest opera ever written. But for me, the triumph of lust and taking over real love and respect hardly seems so romantic.The performance is first rate, though the Alviano has an odd, not very attractive cast to his voice. But this is the performance to own, all other available recordings being drastically cut. This account is complete."
Opera-goers, wake up!
Eric D. Anderson | 02/23/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"why is this opera not performed, at least here in the us? because opera-goers are so entrenched in the staple repertoire, which hasn't substantially changed for 100 years. the story is ludicrous, of course. how many standard rep operas DO NOT have ludicrous stories? this opera is everything the above reviewers say it is: lush, romantic, beautiful, memorable characters; i could go on and on. and yet, nobody performs this gorgeous opera anywhere in the states. i can perfectly understand opera-goers not wanting to stomach schoenberg or stockhausen -- they have a right to reject the objectionable. but opera-goers must wake up and open their minds and hearts to works of beauty that have not been cannonized. and this goes for some later strauss, all of handel, and many other rarely heard gems. opera-lovers, i say unto you: get this cd. it would be a great first step in getting yourselves out of your standard rep rut."