• Die Tote Stadt and the movies

    One of the most interesting non operatic aspects of Die Tote Stadt is the different connections with the world of cinema, that we can find in its subject, its characters, the later work of Korngold in Hollywood,...

    After the tragedy of the Great War, suffered by many European countries, but especially by Germany, on account of its defeat, there was a veritable obsession with negating death, with bridging the abyss between living and dead.

    Of course Die Tote Stadt is part of this obsession, as it was a movie being shot at the same time of the opera. This is Fritz Lang's Destiny (Der Müde Tod), a 1921 film very liked by Korngold.

    After the death of his husband, a young woman, in desperation, drink a potent poison. Then she meets Death, that offers her to give back his husband if she can save at least one of three lives of young people in love that are about to die. The woman goes to Arabia, Italy and China, where she fails to fulfill her mission. Finally, she descover there is only one way to really meet again with his love and she surrenders herself to Death.




    A man obsessed by the death of his young wife, arranged his life around the memories of the deceased... This is the basic plot of Die Tote Stadt, but also of one fascinating movie by François Truffaut, La Chambre Verte.

    This is a dark piece, understated, with a strange, almost unreal atmosphere. It was premiered in 1978, with Truffaut himself and Nathalie Baye acting. Though the film soundtrack comes from music composed in the 1930s by Maurice Jaubert, in a wicked wink by Truffaut, we can use the score of Korngold for Die Tote Stadt, and it will blend seamlessly in the movie, such is the agreement in the approach, including the impossibility o living again the past, introduced by an arson in the film, or by Paul's dream in the opera.




    But, inevitably, the movie many people will think about after watching Die Tote Stadt, is of course Vertigo, by Alfred Hitchcock, based in a novel by the French writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac: D'entre les morts.

    Bernard Herrmann's soundtrack arguably is the best in his career. Ironically enough, the script was pretty similar to the most famous opera of his little valued Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Outside the soundtrack world, Herrmann did not get any real breakthrough. His only opera, his most cherished work, Wuthering Heigths, was even less successful than Korngold's last opera, Die Kathrin.

    It was inevitable that sooner or later, an stage director will dress Marietta like Kim Noval, and Paul like James Stewart. This happened in 1988, in Düsseldorf, and it was done on Günther Kramer's watch.



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