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A veritable wonder

Zemlinsky and Schreker at the Vienna Volksoper,
appreciated by DAVID WILKINS


That contemptible harridan who became Alma Mahler was characteristically unrestrained in her opinions of these two men. Zemlinsky was 'a hideous gnome. Short, chinless, toothless, always with the coffee-house smell on him, unwashed ...'

None of which stopped her toying shamelessly with his passion for her. She claims they never took 'the ultimate step' but it's sensible never to believe a word she writes -- so who knows? She did him emotional harm -- of that we can be pretty certain. Franz Schreker is assigned a 'frequently cruel imagination' but his talent is acknowledged even though 'he never reached the heights'. Since it isn't mentioned, we must assume that his standards of personal hygiene were, at least, satisfactory. He was the luckier of the two -- 'For a while we saw much of each other, but he played no part in my life; I walked beside him for a stretch and left him at the right time.'

The Vienna Volksoper. Photo © Volksoper Wien
The Vienna Volksoper. Photo © Volksoper Wien

For its centenary season the Volksoper Wien is adding a string of 'Rediscovered Music' to its familiar operetta fare. In a pair of engaging (and oh so rare) productions, Zemlinsky and Schreker get a deal more respect from Vienna's wise and welcoming 'other' (not 'lesser') house than the author of And the Bridge is Love would allow them.

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Copyright © 28 November 2004 David Wilkins, Eastbourne UK


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