Das Lied der Liebe
Count Richard Auerspach has gambling debts. His cousin Franz Auerspach can help him out but wants some assistance in return. Franz aspires to marry the young Baroness Paulette, but is currently involved with Lotte Hohenberg, a non-aristocratic actress from the Burgtheater. Their plan is that the handsome Richard will help avoid any scandal by attracting Lotte’s attention and take her out of Vienna on a winter trip to Capri. Of course, everything turns out quite differently. Richard encounters Paulette by chance in a remote garrison town and falls in love with her, after turning him down, Richard pursues her. Richard re-encounters Paulette by chance at a charity function in Lotte’s palace in Vienna. Although we learn that Paulette and Lotte are friends both conceal their love for Franz from each another: Lotte is unaware that the wedding of Franz and Paulette is already being organised behind her back. Paulette is however equally unaware that her Franz has a relationship with Lotte. Shocked by a photo of Lotte and Franz signed with a rapturous dedication by Franz, Paulette resolves that she cannot marry under these circumstances. Paulette’s change of heart should play into Richard’s hands, but fate has another blow in store for him: as Paulette is standing in for her friend in the entrance hall (Lotte has been called to the theatre at short notice), Richard believes that that the women he sees must be Lotte, the individual whom he is to whisk off to Capri for his cousin. When Paulette – who has warmed to Richard’s advances – realises that Richard’s courtship is built on the basis of repaying gambling debts, she rejects him again. Richard is full of remorse and retreats to the countryside. A few months later, he is ﬁnally able to embrace the woman he truly loves in his arms.
‘I am in principle an enemy of any form of adaptation. As a self-creating artist, I cannot hold any other standpoint’ Erich Wolfgang Korngold wrote in 1933, and yet he acted contrarily to his convictions with Das Lied der Liebe. Why was that? With his adaptations, Korngold gave the classical operetta, in particular the old-fashioned Viennese operetta, a new lease of life. Despite receiving many offers of ‘serious’ stage works, he deliberately resolved to devote some of the best years of his career to this genre which not only brought a good income and kept his father at bay but was also for him an artistic necessity. Within this sphere, he felt particularly attracted by the music of Johann Strauß. Back in 1923, he had made an adaptation of Eine Nacht in Venedig. Towards the end of the 1920s, he created his version of Fledermaus for Max Reinhardt which achieved great notoriety. The composer also enjoyed the trust of Adele Strauß, the widow of Johann. In 1925, she requested him to produce a version of the operetta Das Spitzentuch der Königin which had been premiered in 1880. Unlike in his other adaptations, Korngold created a completely new work: although he adapted numerous passages from the original work for Das Lied der Liebe, he also integrated a variety of other Strauß pieces into the new operetta. The underlying tale involving the poet Miguel de Cervantes set in 16th century Portugal was also completely transformed. Korngold and his librettist Ludwig Herzer transferred the plot of Das Lied der Liebe into the Austro-Hungarian Empire of 1910, thereby recreating the natural interconnection between the musical style and its period of origin. The score is interspersed by well-known waltz melodies such as ‘Roses from the South’. Following the premiere in the Berlin Metropole Theatre on 23 December 1931, Das Lied der Liebe was subsequently performed on a total of seventeen other stages. The role of Richard was perfectly tailored by Korngold for the tenor Richard Tauber, a star of the 1920s and 1930s, who also incorporated several numbers of the operetta into his solo programmes with which he toured the world.