WORKS: Die tote Stadt
PERFORMER: Stefan Vinke, Solveig Kringelborn, Stephan Genz, Christa Mayer, Eleonore Marguerre, Julia Oesch, Gino Potente, Shi Yijie, Mathias Schulz; Orchestra and Chorus of La Fenice/Eliahu Inbal; dir. Pier Luigi Pizzi (La Fenice, 2009)
CATALOGUE NO: Dynamic 33625
One waterlogged historic town evoked by another: Korngold’s ‘dead city’ is Bruges, but where better to stage it than Venice? Pizzi’s production, given at La Fenice in 2009, is refreshingly straightforward, unusually taking Korngold’s mix of symbolism, Freudianism and nostalgia on its own terms. Adapted by the composer and his father from Georges Rodenbach’s novella Bruges-la-Morte, Die tote Stadt centres on a widower obsessed with his dead wife; meeting her physical double, he imagines she has returned. He’s wrong, of course, and a lengthy dream sequence tells him so: during it, he murders the living Marietta with a lock of the dead Marie’s hair.
Soprano Solveig Kringelborn steals the show by a mile. She has both the charisma and the vocal malleability to carry off this taxing role, which Korngold created for the legendary Maria Jeritza. Her Marietta is achingly real, a beautifully rounded character masking great-hearted tenderness with her starlet’s bearing. Her Paul, tenor Stefan Vinke, manages the notes (an achievement in itself), but his voice and acting are much in Kringelborn’s shadow. Excellent supporting contributions include a gorgeous ‘Pierrotlied’ from baritone Stephan Genz, and a notably strong Victorin, Marietta’s sidekick, from tenor Shi Yijie.
The orchestra rather struggles with Korngold’s heavy-duty technical demands, which seems to keep the tempos down; they rarely achieve the necessary élan, though conductor Eliahu Inbal draws out the duskily rich centres of Korngold’s sonorities whenever possible. Filming is enjoyable enough, but though the rear of the stage is water-filled and its image projected up onto the back screen, we don’t see much of it. No extras; subtitles in five languages. Jessica Duchen