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Korngold: Die tote Stadt Import

4.7 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, August 14, 2015
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Choir of Beyerischen Rundfunks, Toelzer Knabenchor
  • Conductor: Erich Leinsdorf
  • Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
  • Audio CD (August 14, 2015)
  • Imported ed. edition
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B001UJSW7S
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,866 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
All that has remained in the repertoire of this excellent work are the duly famous 4 minutes of `Marietta's Lied`, hailed by some as one of the most beautiful things in all 20th century opera. It certainly packs an emotional punch worthy of Puccini at his peak, and its return at the very end is heart wrenching. I've seen critics regret the fact that the rest of Die Tote Stadt is 'not on the same level', but really, that's a bit like complaining the rest of Turandot is not quite like Nessun dorma... In fact, the opera was a huge success at its premiere and widely admired by contemporary composers, Puccini as well as Alban Berg among them. And rightly so, which can only make us wonder more at its subsequent neglect. Korngold is just one of those composers who never really made it into the limelight, even though he wrote much that is instantly accessible and quite exciting.
Indeed, the whole two hours of this piece are enthralling, mainly on the strength of the expert and colourful writing for the (gargantuan) orchestra. Imagine a kind of Elektra meets Gurrelieder cocktail with an added dash of Zemlinsky, Mahler and, yes, Puccini, and you may get some idea of what to expect. I was also put in mind of that other forgotten great opera, Pfitzner's Palestrina. It doesn't make for relaxed listening: the general tone is a bit too excited and even hysterical for that, as befits an opera exploring the obviously Freudian theme of mourning gone haywire. But it's anything but monotonous. One moment a boating song plunges you straight into the world of Viennese light operetta, the next this gay party is subsumed by the extraordinary and spectacular sounds of an organ and a plethora of bells, and you are in a sound world that is as modern as it is captivating.
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Format: Audio CD
I had the great good fortune to see, and more importantly, to hear New York City Opera's production of this nearly forgotten work with the astonishing team of soprano Carol Neblett, tenor John Alexander (for whom, it is said, NYCO mounted the production), and conductor Julius Rudel. It is an experience I have never forgotten.

It was to have been revived the following season with Carol Neblett, who was moving on to other things, to be replaced by the estimable soprano Johanna Meier. Unfortunately, the opera was met with stunning indifference by audiences, and the second season performances were cancelled. Too bad.

This recording preserves the performance of the vastly underrated Neblett, adds the veteran baton of Erich Leinsdorf to the mix, and, because of bizarre German musician's union regulations, replaces the magnificent Paul of American tenor John Alexander with the decidedly inferior work of the German Rene Kollo, a singer who, with perhaps all the best intentions, was simply not up to the job. He has the unfortunate ability to do just the opposite of Alexander in this role. Whereas the vocally secure Alexander tended to take the most difficult passages of this score in stride, Mr. Kollo manages to make them sound even more difficult than they really are, no small feat.

That grumbling aside, this is a wonderful recording of an opera which, truth be told, may not be to everyone's taste, but which assuredly is to mine. The truth of the matter is Korngold had the heart of an operetta composer - lovely melodies crowding upon each other, with the prodigious compositional skills of a Richard Strauss. Not always a comfortable combination. But when it works, as with the famous 1st Act Aria/Duet and the breathtaking Appparition Scene which follows, it REALLY works!

The recorded sound here is just about perfect, showing yet again how good analog recording had become near the end of its' run.

A must have recording.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Hearing this recording leads me to ask why this opera is performed so infrequently. I saw a production years ago in Los Angeles, but had really forgotten how incredibly beautiful the score is. In that performance, the leads were James King and Anna Silja (as I remember), both sounding, to be kind, a little "strained". The production was from Deutsche Opera of Berlin, and the stage effect of the appearance of real water in the canals was spectacular. Of course everyone knows the "big" aria (which is really a duet - done as a solo, the soprano just sings both her and the tenor's lines), but the rest of the score is equally breathtaking. And the performances on this recording are truly wonderful. Carol Neblett never sounded better than on this recording - her voice is full and rich, seemingly without any expressive limit. Rene Kollo gives a truly moving performance, and his voice sounds fresh and vibrant (in some recordings he can be a little "blatty", but that is not at all the case here). Hermann Prey is, of course, his usual perfection, and Leinsdorf's conducting is both powerful and sensitive, drawing out the full beauty and emotional richness of the score. This has quickly become one of my favorite recordings.
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Format: Audio CD
I bought this recording in preparation for attending a perfomance of the New York City Opera's wonderful production of Korngold's once wildly popular opera, a work that is now nearly forgotten. After hearing (and then seeing) Die Tote Stadt, I am astonished that this gorgeous, evocative, atmospheric musical theater piece is not performed more frequently in the States.
To compare the composer's style to that of other opera composers is surely to do him an injustice but perhaps it will tempt you to listen to this exquisite piece to say that Korngold's music combines the sweeping romantic lyricism of Puccini with the sophisticated tonalities and lush orchestrations of Richard Strauss.
The outline of the story is simple, or so it seems at first: a man who is obsessed with the memory of his dead wife meets a singer whose resemblence to her drives him to pursue the woman at a terrible cost. By means of flashbacks and dream sequences, the composer draws us into a hallucinatory world where the future becomes the past and appearences are always deceiving. The haunting "Marietta's Lied" weaves a golden thread through this imaginative and beautiful score and the melody's reprise at the end of the opera is emotionally wrenching, one of the most powerful moments in modern opera.
Rene Kollo's voice is unfortunately past its prime here, and this, as well as his rather flat characterization of the lead character slightly mars an otherwise fine recording.
Die Tote Stadt is a story about love and loss, regret, resignation, rejunvenation and hope. Truly, this is a neglected masterpiece!
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