Der König Kandaules / II

Final Synthesis


"Kandaules has torn my veil"

"Der König Kandaules"

Der König Kandaules is a work of avowal created in the shadow of Nazism and permeated by various autobiographical and contemporary dimensions. Here Zemlinsky once again wrote a great opera full of feeling in which he quintessentially summarised his entire compositional creativity. The score is full of references to his own earlier works; in certain passages heterogynous stylistic layers are boldly combined and as it were the stations of a 40-year history of composing are exemplified. Even though the opera does not mark a radical new beginning, its "integrative" compositional aestheticism did indeed touch a nerve of the time. The sound language in Kandaules is not only an expression of Zemlinsky's scepticism towards the potentially restricting postulate of stylistic purity but also of the compositional reality of the 1930s and its search for binding aesthetic categories.

Zemlinsky's interpretation of the drama, which deals with moral and aesthetic questions in a partially discursive diction, is a last analysis of the guiding idea of his works for voice, the antinomy of fantasy world and reality. Against the background of exile and the threatening catastrophe of the war, the subject acquires an extremely relevant significance. The motto with which Gide's drama begins, becomes an ambiguous message in Zemlinsky : "he who wants to keep happiness, should conceal himself well! And even more conceal his happiness from others". In the end this happiness is not only discovered but shattered. The king has been murdered, the queen unveiled, unaffected by this the courtiers toast Gyges, the new king.

Peter Ruzicka and Gerd Albrecht, the artistic directors of the Hamburg State Opera brought about the world premiere on 6 October 1996 and it was not only a final climax for the "rediscovery" of Zemlinsky but also a musicological event of consequence. Now, in addition to Berg's Lulu, Krenek's Karl V and Hindemith's Mathis der Maler, one of the few works of music-theatre created in the 1930s that acknowledges the tradition of the genre and at the same time critically analyses contemporary themes has been made accessible.