Renee Fleming Sings Korngold

Several readers and offline friends have alerted us to this performance of Renee Fleming singing the Korngold aria “Ich ging zu ihm” from Das Wunder Der Heliane. You’ll soon see why “Ich ging” is attracting attention, but (through the magic of YouTube related videos) it turns out to be just one piece of a lavish evening with Fleming singing two Korngold arias and Berg’s Seven Early Songs (not to mention Schumman’s second symphony and Beethoven’s eighth).

BBC Proms Program Note for these two Korngold arias

“Ich soll ihn niemals, niemals mehr sehn” from Die Kathrin

Why must this woman break off her budding love affair? She’s afraid of losing her job and being tossed out on the street. But, she soon caves. Here’s a synopsis of Die Kathrin (Korngold’s last opera, 1939) from the (unofficial) Korngold Society.   

“Ich ging zu ihm” from Das Wunder Der Heliane

Oh, my! What’s going on in this almost-too-ravishing aria, with this woman who strips naked before a condemned man (but doesn’t “love” him) and apparently could die for it? Here is a synopsis of Das Wunder Der Heliane from the (unofficial) Korngold Society.

Lotte Lehmann can be heard singing the same selection here, courtesy of the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, with a convenient text in German and English.

I haven’t actually heard the whole opera, this being an impulsive post. The Telegraph’s Rupert Christiensen dubs Helianeunmitigated codswallop,” and that is just not sporting, no matter how many Hollywood films Korngold scored. I doubt I’d agree. Here at the palatial blogging complex of Holde Kunst HQ, German and Viennese music from the early 20th century (of any compositional approach) tend to get the benefit of the doubt, as does any expressionist or symbolist art.  And since being reminded that this opera was among those deemed Entartete Musik (‘degenerate music’) by the Nazis, I’m ready to prioritize it — unfortunately I wasn’t at the Royal Festival Hall around Thanksgiving to check out a concert performance at which blogger (and Korngold biographer) Jessica Duchen give the pre-concert talk. But Jessica has the reviews.