Zemlinsky reached maturity in Vienna, during the fin-de-siecle period when art nouveau was all the rage. Mahler, the greatest influence on his music, was director of the Vienna Court opera at that period. Zemlinsky reached his peak during the first world war. Zemlinsky in his life time was known as a conductor more then a composer.He taught Schoenberg and became his brother in law. Alma Schindler had an affair with him and left, taking up with Mahler, then married him.Zemlinsky never recovered from the ending of this relationship with Alma. Der Zwerg might sum up himself,a very short, unattractive man,who wrote the Zwerg-the Dwarf, based upon Oscar Wildes story, to come to terms with his own inner demons.He was considered too modern for the conservatives and too old fashioned for the avant-guards serialism. He fled the Nazi's in 1934 and Vienna in 1938. He lived out his life alone in the United States and virtually forgotten, dying in 1942. Zemlinsky's best known work is his Lyric Symphony op 18, with poems written by Tagore, translated into German in 1914. A beautiful work. I am a fan of his.
Victor Ullmann served as Kapellmeister under Zemlinsky in Prague in the 1920's. He had also studied with Schoenberg.Both rejected Serial music and were looking for a new music. Ullmann wrote three operas in the Terezin Concentration camp. He wrote the Broken Jug before entering Terezin in September 1942. This is about a comic depiction of a judge in a small town.Ullmann died in Auschwitz in October of 1944. The Nazi's destroyed the lives of so many artists. Will it happen again somewhere?Could the computer be used by a regime to control its people. This performance under Conlon is good.All round good performances by the singers.
Der Zwerg is my prime interest. This is a traditional rendition. The dwarf is an orphan, ugly and deformed, given to the infanta,the daughter of Philip the second of Spain,as a present. She is spoilt, but shallow and living a sheltered existence. All the mirrors have been covered so he cannot see himself. The dwarf is gentle, loving and artistic.He is a court singer. The infanta and the dwarf play together and in her shallow way, tells him she loves him.This is the first person who has said this to him and he believes it,because she has given him a white rose.She tells him he is different from her, and orders her maid to show him a mirror, she refuses.Eventually, the dwarf sees his reflection and refuses to believe it.The Infanta tells him she will play with him as one does with an animal. Broken hearted he dies clinging to the rose. I have told the story of this opera in this review, because it is unknown and revived by the Los Angeles opera.This lyrical opera is conducted passionately by James Conlon,Rodrick Dixon gives a stunningly believable performance as the dwarf, supported by Mary Dunleavy, who is a believable Infanta, and Chita her maid, Susan Anthony,is good in the supporting role.The action takes place in the court of Phillip the second and the dress is of the period.The singing performances are stunning. Well done, L.A opera in bringing alive what should become a classic short opera. I wept at the end of the performance. I still cannot get the opera out of my mind. For I have seen short people and children begging in the streets in India. If you are looking to give a present to a relative or friend, this is it.