Libretto booklet in German only. Plot synopsis in German and English.
Schreker scored a succès d'estime with his ballet Der Geburtstag der Infantin in 1908. Zemlinsky then approached Schreker for a libretto on the same plot. Schreker became so wrapped up in the emotional tensions associated with physical ugliness obliterating the chances of expressing physical love that the project fell away. Instead Schreker produced Die Gezeichneten.
The setting is 16th century Genoa. Alviano is the architect of a temple to debauchery where moneyed profligates have orgies with abducted women. Tamare is one of the profligates who desires Carlotta who is a painter and she in turn prefers to catch Alviano's soul in a painting. Tamare is determined to win Carlotta and Carlotta while painting Alviano discloses her love. Betrothed to Alviano, Carlotta repents of her entanglement, now appalled by Alviano's repugnant face. She goes off with Tamare. Alviano having found them in flagrante delicto kills Tamare. Carlotta dies calling on the name of Tamare; Alviano, distraught, collapses into insanity. The large chorus represents nobles, citizens, soldiers, maids, servants, women, maidens, silent children, fauns, naiads and bacchantes.
The music is utterly gorgeous - jewelled, mystic, silvery, haunted, euphorically climactic in episodes fully worthy of the operas of Korngold, Schoeck (including Massimilla Doni and Schloss Durande) and Strauss. This is voluptuous stuff written in the dazzling hey-day of late-romantic opera with a footing in the twin heritages of Wagner and Puccini. Listen, for example, on CD1 to the surging flowing romance of the Halloh! Vitelozzo (tr. 3) or the tenderest of orchestral gestures in Holde Martuccia (tr. 5). This is the material which Hollywood was later to mine in light-flooded scores written for the screen romances of the 1940s by Korngold and Waxman. The Verwandlung in Act II Track 9 (CD1) is yet another ultra-romantic and, let's face it, irresistible, affirmation of the passionately tear-stained musical line that Korngold was to purvey in Hollywood (e.g. in the marsh music of Elizabeth and Essex and the great theme from Anthony Adverse). All those who love their Korngold need to add this set to their shelves as soon as possible. Get it now before it disappears. If you remain unconvinced then try listening to CD2 track 6 which is Carlotta's song 'Ah Welche nacht' in which she is joined by the choir which shines at first quietly and later with greater passion in an echo from Delius's A Mass of Life. At the peak moving directly into tr.7 and in Adorno and Carlotta's duet, there is some unsubtle romance-exalted material but overall this is grand opera at its hyper-sentimental apex. Wonderful singing from Becht and Martin but then I did not detect any really weak links in this cast.
This 1984 performance dates from the first flushed up-rearing of interest in Schreker and Zemlinsky. At this stage Albrecht was busy with many such revivals. Two years previously at the same Salzburg Festival, Albrecht directed a rare revival of Schoeck's Penthesilea. Austrian Radio's engineers made a superb job of this recording which has now been digitally remastered. There is the occasional creak and cough but miraculously few - even in the moments of greatest quiet. Speaking of which, here is an opera which, for all its superheated storms, revels in glimmering Baxian webs of orchestration, fine tintinnabulation and the softest gong impacts. Schreker could not resist ending the work (CD2 tr. 12) with a hideously retching and yawing apostrophe to inimical fate.
The set is well documented but sadly I cannot provide the registers of all the singers as these details are not listed in the booklet. Only the sung German text is given. There is no English translation. The notes and a very good synopsis are in both German and English.
There are other recordings of this work of which only one is currently available. The deleted Decca recording (444 442-2(3)) was issued in 1993/94 as part of the now cob-webbed and threadbare ‘Entartete Musik’ series
and now reissued as an ArkivCD
. The Berlin Deutsche SO conducted by Lothar Zagrosek. There is also a still currently available recording on Marco Polo.
The opera was premiered at Frankfurt-am-Main on 25 April 1918. Its UK premiere came on 31 January 1965 on the Third Programme.
This set should be on the wish-list of every collector who values their operatic Zemlinsky, Schoeck, Korngold, Pfitzner or Schreker. I am now all the more regretful that I missed Schreker's Irrelohe while it was still available on Sony.
- Rob Barnett,