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Erich Wolfgang Korngold „The Miracle of Heliane“

Our very special thanks go to the NAXOS label for enabling us to present this performance to you as a Video on Demand offer from 18 to 21 February 2021. You can purchase this production as a DVD in stores.

The Miracle of Heliane on Blu-ray or DVD

 

From 18 February 2021, 15.00, until 21 February 2021, 15.00, you will find Erich Wolfgang Korngold's THE MIRACLE OF HELIANE as a

Video on Demand

 

Opera in three acts
Libretto by Hans Müller-Einigen,
based on Hans Kaltneker's „Die Heilige“
First performed on 7th October 1927 at the Hamburgischen Staatsoper
Premiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 18th March 2018

In German with German and English surtitles
2 hours and 47 minutes

The DVD of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's rarely performed masterpiece THE MIRACLE OF HELIANE has been awarded the OPUS KLASSIK, the most prestigious prize for classical music in Germany. The award for the recording produced by the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the NAXOS label was given for the best recording in the category "20th/21st century opera recording". The recording of the production directed by Christof Loy featured Marc Albrecht as conductor, Sara Jakubiak, Brian Jadge and Josef Wagner in the main roles as well as the orchestra and chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

A forgotten treasure
 

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was one of the most celebrated composers of his period and the announcement that a new opera was on the way sent a ripple of excitement through the opera scene in 1927. Not long after the premiere a cluster of stages were competing to mount HELIANE and within a year eleven opera houses had hosted their premieres of the work, among them the Charlottenburger Opernhaus. Yet the opera vanished from programmes after houses were prohibited from mounting productions of works by the Jewish composer. So it was a question of rediscovering a forgotten treasure of opera history.

The Deutsche Oper Berlin production was not only an extraordinary success with the Berlin and international audiences who travelled to see it, but was also voted "Rediscovery of the Year 2018" in the major critics' poll of "Opernwelt".

This triangular tale of love, hatred and the wait for redemption revolves around a cold despot incapable of love, his forlorn wife Heliane and a Dionysian stranger. In a rush of pathos and using exquisite harmonies, Korngold’s score distils the timeless, fairytale-like enigma of the power of love. His music resonates in the florid hues of the late romantic period.

Conductor Marc Albrecht, Director Christof Loy, Sets Johannes Leiacker, Costumes Barbara Drosihn, Light Olaf Winter, Chorus Master Jeremy Bines, Dramaturgy Dorothea Hartmann, Thomas Jonigk; Heliane Sara Jakubiak, The ruler, her husband Josef Wagner, The stranger Brian Jagde, The messenger Okka von der Damerau, The doorman Derek Welton, The blind judge Burkhard Ulrich, The young man Gideon Poppe, The six judges Andrew Dickinson, Dean Murphy, Thomas Florio, Clemens Bieber, Philipp Jekal, Stephen Bronk, Two seraphic voices Sandra Hamaoui, Meechot Marrero, Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin

 

 

 

The plot, synopsised for you by director Christof Loy
 

Act One
In a land where laughing and loving is forbidden, a nameless stranger awaits his sentence. He had come to the land to spread his message of joy and light among the people. The king himself ordered his arrest and immediate trial. A watchman informs the stranger that on that very night someone will come to tell him the verdict. This person turns out to be the king himself, who tells the stranger that he will be executed the following morning. In godforsaken solitude, the stranger waits for morning to come with dread. Then a woman comes to him to comfort him in the final hours before his death. She reveals that she is the queen, the wife of the tyrannical ruler. The stranger is mesmerised by her angelic appearance. She too cannot resist his tender poetry. Both realise that this feeling blossoming unexpectedly between them cannot last long, since death awaits the stranger in the early morning hours. Without hesitation, Queen Heliane does what the stranger yearns for in the last hours before his execution. She allows him to touch her hair and her bare feet, and finally to look at her naked body, too. When he asks her to surrender herself to him on this night, she refuses. She says she wants to pray for him and herself and disappears into the nearby chapel. In that moment, the king returns again and makes the stranger an unusual offer: he, the ruler, loves Heliane, his wife, but she will not accept his love. He, the stranger, is someone who can make an entire people love him. Therefore, it should be very easy for him to soften cold Heliane, so that he, the ruler and her husband, can then step in and finally conquer Heliane’s body, which up until now she has refused to allow him to do. He has never even seen her naked. Heliane hears her husband’s words from the next room and, horrified, orders him to be silent. Only then does she remember her nakedness. The king immediately accuses her of being unfaithful to him with the stranger and has her arrested. He will put his love on trial that very night.

Sara Jakubiak sings the Heliane's aria „Ich ging zu ihm“ ... Here in our video
 

Act Two
With the help of a female messenger, with whom he once spent a night of lust, only a few hours after his wife’s arrest, the king convenes a court that is prepared to pronounce the country’s usual sentence for adultery: death. The chief judge and associate judges are shocked when they realise that it is the queen herself who is supposed to have committed adultery. Heliane tries to explain to the court that it was not lust that drove her to show herself to the stranger naked. She felt empathy for his fear of death, for his pain and that is why she did what she did. And therefore she claims, she is innocent and pure. Neither the king nor the judges can understand what she says. She also leaves it completely unclear whether she actually had sexual relations with the stranger. The stranger himself, whom the king has let live for now, is then led in to testify. The stranger manages to convince the executioner to allow him to be alone with Heliane for a moment before he is questioned further. The stranger offers Heliane his life. She should kill him in order to appease her husband’s hatred and save her own life. Heliane cannot accept this deal. The stranger then kisses her and kills himself in front of her. The king and the judges rush back into the court after Heliane cries for help. In despair, the king throws himself on the dying stranger. He realises that he will never know the truth about what happened that night between him and his wife. The stranger has barely just fallen down dead, when the messenger informs them that the entire people are rebelling at the palace gates. The people have heard that the man who proclaimed joy and light has been sentenced to death. They want to see him alive. The king opens the gates and lets the people in. He too would like to see the stranger alive again, so that he might know the truth after all. He shows the people the dead stranger and tells them that he has killed himself out of love for his wife. Yet, he claims, his wife is pure and therefore is in the position to subject herself to a trial from God. The people and the king virtually force her to undertake the so-called ‘bier trial’. After an internal struggle, she convinces herself to do it: yes, in the early morning hours, she will bring the dead man back to life in front of all the people.

Act Three
The people are waiting impatiently at night for the bier trial to be carried out. Hopes that many things will change in the land if Heliane manages to bring the light-bringer back to life alternate with doubts whether Heliane might not just be an ordinary woman, who does not possess these powers and did give herself to the stranger for a night after all. Heliane too endures a night full of fear and secretly hopes that she will manage to carry out the miracle. When she is finally standing at the bier, she is not able to utter the words: “Arise and transform”, since to her the very words seem blasphemous. She revokes everything she has said before and declares that it was love that brought her to the stranger. The love that every woman feels and should feel. At first the king tries to save Heliane from the people, who immediately turn into an angry mob who want to execute her, and he even offers to execute every one of them, if only she would confess to him. However, she rejects this blood sacrifice and accuses her husband of mass murder in front of everyone. The people, by now blindly supporting the king, want to attack her. At that very moment, the miracle occurs. The stranger arises from among the dead and pronounces his judgement. Now the people see Heliane as a saint and accept him as supreme judge. He prepares Heliane for the fact that he cannot protect her from death. This is the final trial she must face in her life. Shortly afterwards, the king, overcome by jealousy, stabs his wife with a dagger. The stranger banishes the king, pardons the messenger and releases the people with the prospect of a kingdom filled with happiness and freedom. He and Heliane leave the mortal world behind, a world caught in an endless cycle of sin, judgement and atonement.

 

Listen to an introduction to Korngold's work with dramaturge Dorothea Hartmann


The Miracle of Heliane, commented by Dorothea Hartmann ... Here in the video
 

 

In 2018, the successful director Christof Loy staged this rarely performed work, fulfilling a long-held wish.
 
Christof Loy © Ruth Tromboukis
 

„The conviction that miracles might be possible is something that we theatre makers have to bring to work with us. After all, it frees up our imagination. Which is why there are many areas of overlap between theatre and religion. [...] No one questions the suspension of disbelief in films. In the theatre we should be able to go to work with a similar freedom of creative spirit. After all, we’re telling stories where the stuff that has to be imagined outweighs the stuff that we’re presented with in reality. And the miracles that we’re visualising should be allowed to be acted out on stage.“ ... Continue reading "Ode to love"

 

Marc Albrecht describes himself as a Korngoldian. He was all the happier when Christof Loy and the Deutsche Oper Berlin made it possible to stage this rarely performed work in 2018.
 
Marc Albrecht  © Ruth Tromboukis
 
 

„The two of us are prospecting for gold in similar ways when it comes to unknown or forgotten works. And I’m an old Korngoldian. When Christof Loy suggested HELIANE, it clicked immediately. If you ask me, this mystery play is actually about a utopia; it requires a holistic kind of approach to theatrical drama and should be an all-encompassing auditory experience not limited to the stage. Korngold pulls out all the stops on the tonal scale and uses polytonal chords from start to finish. This sets his score apart from his others.“ ... Continue reading "Ode to love"

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