The city died today

The city died today


norman lebrecht

December 04, 2020

It’s the centenary of Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt. Premiered in Cologne on December 4, 1920, it became the most performed opera in Vienna between 1920 and 1938.

Cologne Opera is streaming it live tonight:

Mind that chair.


  • John Borstlap says:

    The video turns the music into film music of the fourties….. while the score is better than that.

  • Herman the German says:

    The city also died in Hamburg, not just in Cologne. The opera was premiered in two cities on the same day.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      That’s right, such was the expectation and wrangling for the rights.

    • Novagerio says:

      That’s right. in Cologne, the conductor was Otto Klemperer (his wife Johanna was Marie/Marietta) and in Hamburg, the conductor was Egon Pollak. Both premieres on December 4th 1920.

  • Bloom says:

    Looking forward to watching Korngold s flamboyant noirpsychomasterpiece staged by Tatjana Gürbaca!

  • Korngold’s opera is entitled Die TOTE Stadt, not Die TODE Stadt. Please would you correct the title of the post, thank you.

    For those who may wish to learn about its composition and performance history, I have published an extended essay today, to mark this important centenary which, as well as including rare photos from my archive also presents a unique and rare recording of Korngold improvising on the piano, themes from his score.

    Here’s the weblink:-

    I hope many on this list may enjoy this centenary tribute.


  • The View from America says:

    It’s a fantastic opera — simple as that.

  • Larry says:

    Amen to that. Hard to believe that the Met has done it only once, back in 1921

  • For me one of the greatest opera’s ever. Adore it.
    My discography of a few selected recordings (in Dutch)

  • Edgar Self says:

    Memories, and a reminder of the recordings by Lotte Lehmann, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and Richard Tauber of excerpts and Marietta’s “Lied”. Brendan Carroll’s interesting post reminds me that there is a historical CD compilation of historic recordings, including some by Korngold himsel, and several famous singers. His essay is timely

    A word too for Korngold’s violin concerto, whose advocates include Mutter and Jascha Heifetz.and film scores.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The 2nd picture shows Kaufmann’s indignation about a too low intonation of the soprano during rehearsel.

  • jan neckers says:

    It was performed some twenty years ago at De Opera voor Vlaanderen in Antwerp as one of the three Flemish opera’s (the others being Puccini’s Edgar and Lohengrin which plays in Antwerp at the time when the duchy of Brabant -now part of modern Flanders- was as independant as the county of Flanders.
    I cannot help it but I was not impressed. I always thought Korngold should have followed Lehar and Kalman after his Polykrates and Violantha. I could easily imagine the aria’s of Paul and Fritz-Pierrot sung in a tragic operetta. As a young man my father played and sang in an amateur operetta performance of Korngold’s Das Lied der Liebe (with themes of Strauss) and he said the whole score was superb as one can judge from a few Tauber recordings. Incidentally as a child I often accompanied my parents to Brugge before mass tourism arrived. One could easily update a performance from the end of the 19th century to the fifties. The city was indeed beautiful, silent, somewhat dirty and very poor.

  • operacentric says:

    There’s some gorgeous music in this opera! Undervalued but the lead roles are quite a sing! Cologne has Burkhard Fritz, an erstwhile Siegfriend as Paul.

    There were technical problems with last night’s stream – ticket holders (yes it was a ‘pay what you wish’ stream!) have access to a replay on demand. I believe Oper Koln is repeating the stream on the nights the other performances would have taken place – as they are for ‘Written on Skin’ conducted by Francois-Xavier Roth.