George the Dreamer
Alexander Zemlinsky 1871–1942
Opera in 2 acts and an epilogue
Libretto by Leo Feld
First performed October 11 1980, Nürnberg Opera
Sung in German with German & English surtitles
Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin
There's a chamber music concert on March 24 inspired by this work
Fairy tale worlds, that come to life: paradise or nightmare?
Vienna experienced major cultural upheaval and change at the turn of the 20th century and Sigmund Freud’s research into dreams and the subconscious provided inspiration for literature, theatre and music. Görge, the hero in Zemlinsky’s opera, deals with his fears and misfortunes in his dreams too. He lives in a world of books and falls in love with a dream princess, although he’s supposed to marry Grete, a down to earth young woman who wishes he had a firmer grip on reality. But Görge wants to make his fairy tale come to life and flees, ending up as a drunk in a village where he’s treated like an outsider again. In Gertraud, a known arsonist and witch, Görge finds his princess again. With her he can listen to fairy stories, keep dreams secret and act them out.
The central themes in this opera, rejection and hate of strangers, run like a red thread through Alexander Zemlinsky’s life too: in Vienna he witnessed the first anti-Semetic riots, which were directed against artists too. One of the most prominent victims was court opera director Gustav Mahler, who commissioned this work. His unrequited love for Alma Schindler and his woes poured out in this, his third opera. After Mahler was fired in 1907 the world premiere of the work was unceremoniously scrapped. It wasn’t seen or heard until 1980, as the crowing point of a Zemlinsky renaissance in Nürnberg. While his highly dramatic music brings Wagner, Mahler and Humperdinck to mind, it is original and inspired. Zemlinsky’s score glitters with brilliant ideas and sophisticated harmonies, which lend expressive touches to a story about being an outcast, distorted fairy tale worlds and alternative ways of life.