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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHREKER: Gezeichneten (Die)
years have brought a revival of interest in the music of the Austrian composer
Franz Schreker, whose reputation has been eclipsed partly through political
circumstances and partly through the disproportionate fame of other composers
who seem to have learned much from him, his older contemporary Arnold
Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Schreker spent a dozen years, from
1920 until 1932, as director of the Berlin Musikhochschule and enjoyed the
greatest respect both as a composer and as a teacher. In the latter year he was
forced by the government of Franz von Papen to resign his position, and in 1933
he was dismissed by the National Socialist Party from the work that he had been
given as compensation at the Prussian Academy, where he was in charge of the
master-class in composition. The destruction of his career brought about a
heart-attack and he died in March, 1934.
of the Austrian court photographer, Franz Schrekerwas born in Monaco, where his
father Ignaz Schrecker - the spelling of the name was later changed - was
employed briefly in a similar capacity. His father was a native of Bohemia,
born at Golc-Jenikau, not far from Kaliste, Mahler's birth-place. His mother
was from Styria, a member of an ennobled but impoverished family. The death of
Ignaz Schrecker in 1888 left his wife and four children to make a life for
themselves in Vienna in relative penury, a fact that made Franz Schreker value
all the more the security his later fame brought him, while no doubt increasing
his distress when racial persecution brought disaster.
1892 Schreker entered the Vienna Conservatory with a scholarship, studying
there with Zemlinsky's teacher Robert Fuchs. Four years later his Love Song,
for harp and strings, was performed in London by the orchestra of the Budapest
Opera, while his graduation composition in 1900, a setting of Psalm CXVI,
attracted some favourable attention in Vienna. This was followed by his
Intermezzo for strings, Opus 8, later included in the Romantic Suite. The work
was awarded first prize in a competition held by the Neue musikalische Presse
and was given its first performance in the Musikverein in 1902.
went on to establish a reputation for himself in the theatre. The one-act opera
Flammen was given a concert performance in 1902 , at a time when the composer
seems already to have started work on Der ferne Klang. In 1908 his pantomime
Der Geburtstag der Infantin, based on a story by Oscar Wilde, was given in
Vienna, bringing the composer his first significant success. There were delays,
however, in completing Der ferne Klang, caused by the criticisms of his friends
and natural misgivings about the subject of the work and its erotic content. In
1905, after the appearance of Salome by Richard Strauss, Schreker took up the
opera again, part of which was given a concert performance in Vienna in 1909.
Its generally favourable reception encouraged him to complete the opera, a task
he accomplished in the space of four weeks. After various delays and
disappointments it was staged at Frankfurt-am-Main on 18th August, 1912, when
it won some success.
stage-work that followed, Das Spielwerk und die Prinzessin, later to be
revised, was not so well received. In Vienna the piece provoked open hostility
, while in Frankfurt it was received coolly, if without animosity. Schreker
achieved greater success with Die Gezeichneten and Der Schatzgräber, produced
in Frankfurt in 1918 and 1920 respectively. These works were followed by
Irrelohe, given in Cologne in 1924 under Klemperer, to be damned by the most
influential critics. The opera Christophorus was never staged, owing to
opposition from the National Socialists, whose influence was increasing. Der
singende Teufel was mounted at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in 1928 under
Kleiber, but failed to impress the public, while Der Schmied von Gent,
completed in 1932, had the briefest of runs at the Deutsches Opernhaus in
Berlin two months before Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.
reputation as a composer of opera rests largely on Der ferne Klang, Die
Gezeichneten and Der Schatzgräber, and this principally among his
contemporaries. His fame, in fact, came to an end with the decline of the
Weimar Republic and with the prohibition of performances of his works, in
common with those of other composers of Jewish ancestry or allegedly decadent
tendency, during the period of the Third Reich. It is only in recent years that
more general interest in his music has been rekindled.
Die Gezeichneten the style for which Schreker became best known reached its
height, later to be recreated in Der Schatzgräber. In Der ferne Klang and Das
Spielwerk und die Prinzessin, apart from the use of Leit-Motiv techniques, the
relative absence of the influence of Richard Strauss or Wagner is striking.
Harmony is generally non-functional and used for colour. Compared with his
earlier works, Die Gezeichneten represents a relative retreat from the
experimentalism of Der ferne Klang and now opulent, more strongly Wagnerian
elements enter the harmonic language, although tonality often remains
the matter of orchestration indeed all these operas reveal Schreker as a master
of orchestral nuance, from broad tuttis to the most delicate chamber-music
effects, a feature very obvious in Die Gezeichneten. German and Austrian music
before Schreker had never been so rich in tone-colour. In this respect he found
a means of expression that Debussy had reached through a very different route.
Gezeichneten was conceived between 1913 and 1915 and first performed after the
war, in 1918, in Frankfurt. Its immediate success made Schreker one of the most
sought after composers in German-speaking countries. Unlike his contemporaries
Richard Strauss and Korngold, Schreker was hardly performed at all outside
Germany and Austria.
reputation Schreker had won brought him in 1920 the position of director of the
Berlin Musikhochschule. Under his guidance this became an institution of the
greatest distinction, numbering among its pupils the violinist Carl Flesch, the
cellist Emmanuel Feuermann, the pianist Arthur Schnabel and Schreker's own
pupils Alois Haba, Jascha Horenstein, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Joseph
Rosenstock and Arthur Rodzinski. Paul Hindemith, the very antithesis of
Schreker as a composer, was appointed professor of composition. Schreker at
this time was classed with the young modernists, by the side of Arnold
the 1920s onwards Schreker's reputation declined. From Irrelohe (1923) on,
through Christophorus, Der singende Teufel (1931) and Der Schmied von Gent
(1932), he set out on new but quite esoteric paths. In 1928 Schoenberg wrote of
Schreker and himself as romantics, but he was soon to outpace him in the view of
the young avant-garde. The musicologist Carl Dahlhaus claims that Schreker had
to be sacrificed to enable Schoenberg to become part of the New Music.
Nevertheless Schoenberg continued to treat Schreker's music with respect.
with most of his operas Schreker wrote the libretto of Die Gezeichneten
himself. The original conception for the opera came from Alexander von
Zemlinsky, who allowed Schreker to make use of it, while himself turning to Der
Zwerg, after Oscar Wilde's Birthday of the Infanta, which also treats the
subject of ugliness impeding the fulfillment of physical desires.
central character of Die Gezeichneten is the 16th century Genoese nobleman
Alviano, who thinks he can overcome his own ugliness by allowing young
aristocrats to make use of his island of Elysium as an erotic paradise. After
the killing of a number of young girls, he decides to give Elysium to the
people, in an attempt to conceal the crimes. He falls in love with the daughter
of the mayor, the artist Carlotta, but she is pursued by another admirer, the
young nobleman Count Tamare. During the celebration day when the island is to
be handed over it seems that Carlotta has been raped in the same way as the
other girls had been. Alviano is accused of her murder but leads the crowd to a
cave, where they find Carlotta dying in the arms of Tamare. She declares that
she has deliberately given herself to Tamare, rejecting Alviano.
has been no sexual-pathological aberration that Schreker has not chosen for a
subject", the musicologists of the National Socialist régime commented,
denouncing his music as degenerate. This was, of course, a deliberate and
populist refusal to distinguish, as in the case of Kurt Weill's operas, between
what an artist knows and what he wants the world to be like. All the
protagonists created by Schreker, in Die Gezeichneten Alviano, stand for the
artist in society and all these artists fail to cope with the divergence
between the artist and society. What the propagandists of the new régime
refused to realise was that with Weill's Zeitoper and Schreker's pessimistic
naturalism the days of Utopian opera had come to an end. The true modern
opera-composer, like Schoenberg, Weill, Hindemith and Schreker, rejected a
high-moralistic art. The modern artist turned away from the idealised world of
Romanticism or the better world beyond, embodied in the Schopenhauerian,
Protestant-Christian redemption conclusions of Wagner's operas. At the same
time Schreker rejected the fin-de-siècle notion of the redemption of the artist
through his art, as in the operas of Hans Pfitzner. Utopian solutions appealed,
of course, to the National Socialist way of thinking, in which modern art could
have no place. The artist could only act as a blind prophet Tiresias or a
Cassandra. Schreker's decadent Elysium was aprelude to the fall of the Third
van der Linden
action of the opera takes place in Genoa in the 16th century.
first ac t is set in a room in the palace of Alviano Salvago, a Genoese
nobleman. He is about thirty years old and haunted by his physical deformity.
He has created on an island he owns an erotic paradise, where young noblemen
take their pleasure in a secret grotto with girls abducted from the city.
Alviano himself, a hunchback and cripple, takes no part in these activities,
and, alarmed at the disappearance of some girls, decides to give the island to
the city. His young friends are angry at his decision, which will put an end to
their pleasures, but he is firm in his decision and leaves to make the
necessary final arrangements for the transfer of property with the notary.
Vitelozzo Tamare rushes in in excitement, announcing that he has fallen in love
with a most beautiful girl, whom he has seen riding through the city in a
golden carriage. Alviano returns, accompanied by the Podestà and his wife and
daughter, and members of the Senate of Genoa. Tamare realises that the girl he
has seen is Carlotla, the daughter of the Podestà, who now thanks Alviano for
his munificence, although ratification of the gift must depend on Duke Adorno.
Tamare has meanwhile approached Carlotta, who rejects him, demanding some
sacrifice as proof of his love. The Podestà now asks Alviano for a day's delay,
so that the consent of the Duke may be obtained, and the company moves into the
the ruffian Pietro comes in, in argument with Martuccia, Alviano's housekeeper.
He has been followed fordays by a woman who mistakes him for Menaldo, the young
noble who had abducted her, and is prepared to inform against him. He begs
Martuccia to hide the woman in Alviano's house, and she reluctantly agrees.
and Alviano now return and he asks if she is feeling betIer, since she had
seemed about to faint in the other room. She explains that she had used this as
a trick to speak to him alone. She is a painter and her ambition is to paint
the inner soul, but models are hard to find. She asks Alviano to allow her to
paint his portrait. He suspects mockery and is at first angry, thinking she
means to show him as a foil for more handsome company, but she explains how,
from her studio on the outskirts of Genoa, she has observed him, lonely and
unhappy, but moved by the beauty of the sunrise. She has already painted the
picture, but needs to see his eyes, in order to finish the task. Alviano agrees
to sit for her the following day.
first scene of the second act is set in the palace of Duke Adorno, where the
Podestà and sorne of his fellow-senators have been seeking the Duke's
permission to accept Alviano's gift to the city. The Duke has been
non-committal, and the delegation is impatient at his supposed jealousy of
Alviano's popularity and the lack of a firm decision in their favour. In this
mood of dissatisfaction they leave.
Duke now comes in with his friend Count Tamare, who explains his own ill-humour
by the fact that he has fallen in love with a girl of humbler station, who has
refused him and rnocked his protestations. The Duke now promises to speak to
Carlotta on behalf of Tamare, but tells him that if he is unsuccessful he must
forget her. Tamare agrees to forget her - but only after she has served as his
whore. The Duke warns him not to do this, but Tamare points out that girls have
been disappearing in Genoa and noone has discovered the kidnappers. Ginevra
Scotti, the girl hidden by Martuccia in Alviano's house, has been abducted. The
Duke guesses that Tamare is involved in some way and the latter finally tells
him of the secret grotto on the island and the orgies that Alviano has
encouraged there. The Duke understands that he has a reason now to forbid
Alviano's proposed gift on moral grounds and arrest the donor. Adorno again
assures Tamare that he will speak on his behalf to Carlotta, but warns him against
the use of force.
second scene is set in Carlotta's studio outside the city. She is working on
the portrait of Alviano and tells him about a painter she once knew who
specialised in the painting of hands. The strangest of this wornan's paintings
was of a pale waxen hand, like the hand of a corpse, holding a strangely
shining object. The woman had felt her heart grasped by this dead hand and
squeezed. Alviano seeks the rneaning of such a painting, but Carlotta suggests
that the woman had never found true love.
finds difficulty in capturing the eyes of Alviano on her canvas, and the two of
them rest for a while. Their conversation leads Carlotta to declare her love
for him, something that he finds difficult to believe. She now continues painting,
since she can now see his eyes clearly and promises to be the light of his
future life. As she finishes, she starts to faint, and as she stumbles, reveals
another painting, that had been covered with a cloth - the subject a pale,
waxen hand, as of a corpse, holding an indistinguishable shining object.
Alviano understands that the woman that Carlotta had described earlier was
herself. Alviano runs to support her and holds her in his arms, but their
embraces are interrupted by a maidservant, who announces the presence of
first scene of the third act is on the island of Elysium, with its gardens,
fountains, and erotic statuary. The scene is a re-creation of a pagan world,
with fauns pursuing naiads, and troupes of Bacchantes, all to the amazement of
comes in, with the Podestà. They are looking for Carlotta, who is to marry
Alviano. As they move away, Carlotta comes in with Duke Adorno. She confesses
that her feelings for Alviano have changed since the completion of his
portrait. The Duke tells her that Alviano is wicked and depraved, but she is
unwilling to listen. She now finds herself succumbing to the bewitchingly
sensuous effects of her surroundings.
enchantment of the island increases. There is a brief scene in which a young
man persuades a girl to give herself to him, and a fantastic series of
processions, uniting the ancient pagan world with the contemporary world of the
Renaissance. Tamare masked, appears, with Carlotta, who now submits to him and
goes with him towards the secret grotto. Alviano continues to search for her
and is hailed by the people, praising his generosity. At this point the
festivities are interrupted by the sudden appearance of the Captain of Justice,
with the sinister "Eight", who arrest Alviano as the one guilty of
the abductions that have been taking place and declare him possessed by the
Devil. In proof Ginevra Scotti is brought in, having succeeded in escaping from
Alviano's house, where, at Pietro's request, she had been kept prisoner. The
Captain reveals that the Duke's informant in this scandal was Tamare, and
Alviano now begins to realise that Carlotta is in danger. Her maidservants come
in, announcing that she has disappeared, and Alviano tells the crowd that he
will lead them to his poor lost bride.
second scene is set in the grotto where the young noblemen had celebrated their
orgies, now apparently suddenly interrupted. The young men have been arrested
and are in chains. On a rose-covered bed lies Carlotta, senseless. Alviano
threatens Tamare, unwilling to believe that Carlotta has been a willing victim.
Tamare, however, declares that Carlotta had in the end given herself willingly,
and as he breaks the chains that bind him Alviano stabs him to death. Carlotta
now comes to her senses again and repulses Alviano with horror, calling for her
lover Tamare. She gives a deep sigh and falls back motionless, while Alviano,
his mind now unhinged, makes his unsteady way through the crowd and out of the
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SCHREKER: Gezeichneten (Die)