Zemlinsky, Der Traumgörge, directed by Joachim Schloemer, sets by Jens Kilian, Deutsche Oper, photo by A. T. Schaefer
The choreographer and director Joachim Schloemer has struggled so hard to come up with a contemporary take on the piece, rich in meaning and open to a variety of interpretations, that he has rendered the plot, which was confusing enough to begin with, almost entirely unintelligible. Zemlinsky’s opera plays out in a timeless setting of small-town life. Dreamy orphan Görge is more interested in the world of fairy tales than in his bride-to-be, Grete. He runs away before the engagement party. After years of wandering, he finds his dream woman, the social outcast Gertraud. He rescues her from a witch-hunt and brings her to his home town, where all are enthralled by his storytelling and respect him as their leader.For another viewpoint, George Loomis reviewed the production (Berlin operas: A grim myth and an abstruse fairy tale, June 5) for the International Herald Tribune:
Schloemer sets the action in the broken-down anteroom of a modern- day underground railway. Static escalators, grubby stairs, illuminated announcements (“FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!”) and a couple of bare concrete walls form a space that is halfway to nowhere (sets: Jens Kilian). The villagers of the first act are grey- suited office-workers, the miller and pastor are drunks, Görge drafts film scripts and wears thick glasses.
The second act, Zemlinsky’s exploration of brutality and violence, mingles subcultures of pimps, hippy surfies, puking proletarians and lumpish religious fanatics. Görge is a tramp, his Gertraud a junkie. For the postlude of the couple’s triumphant return home, Schloemer has devised a bizarre bunker of conformist cultism, Stepford Wives meet Jim Jones. The chorus are dressed in identical 1950s leisurewear, and there’s a mass suicide just before the final curtain.
Alexander von Zemlinsky's "Der Traumgörge," or The Dreaming George, an opera about fairy tales from early 20th-century Vienna [is] now in the repertoire of the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Görge's preoccupation with fairy tales, which he believes "must be for real," breaks up his prospective marriage to Grete. But in Act II, which confusingly has almost entirely new characters, he meets Gertraud, whom he eventually recognizes as his fairy princess come to life. Reaching this conclusion is a tortuous process, however, and Zemlinsky's churning chromatic score adds another layer of complexity.Well, I for one would still like to hear this opera. The Deutsche Oper's Web site has more pictures.
A colleague of Schönberg who never made the break to atonality, Zemlinsky rightly has his champions, but "Der Traumgörge" does not find him at his best, certainly not as a dramatist. Nor does Joachim Schlömer's production supply much in the way of insight. Jens Kilian's set depicts a vast hall with two (nonworking) escalators. It could be an office building housing Görge's potential publisher, for he and his many papers spend a lot of time in the lobby. The staging has a number of perplexing touches, such as having a shopping cart tumble down an escalator, including a quasi-ballet of skateboarders and portraying the citizens of Görge's village as dead in the final scene. The tenor Steve Davislim does yeoman work as Görge and Manuela Uhl brings an arresting dramatic soprano to Gertraud. The conductor Jacques Lacombe stressed clarity of texture over bringing out the colors and passions of the score. But it is doubtful that a more fervent interpretation would have added appreciably to the Deutsche Oper's case for the opera.