I now know the work quite well, have listened to several recordings and attended a live performance by Opera Vlaanderen. Based on this, I would like to say that I cannot detect any difference, McAlpine has done a very good job and other smaller opera houses can also benefit from this in the future.
As a follow-up to the successful production of “Die tote Stadt” in 2019, the Nederlandse Reisopera are programming another opera by Erich Wolfgang Korngold to open their 2023-24 season. The leading role is played by none other than internationally renowned Dutch soprano, Annemarie Kremer. For this production, a whole new orchestral arrangement is made by Fergus McAlpine.
Korngold’s fourth opera Das Wunder der Heliane was undoubtedly his most ambitious project. The libretto seems a bit bizarre, you have to see it through the eyes of the zeitgeist of the 1920s. It is a fiercely symbolic story, entirely in the spirit of the Interwar period, captured by Korngold in decadent and highly colourful music. The mysterious, unearthly, supernatural, the divine, the magnified emotions and the undisguised eroticism: it all fit in that time. Also the spirit of sacrifice and the motto that love conquers all: if not now, then in the hereafter.
This new version of Korngold’s Das Wunder der Heliane was written to further promote this absolute masterpiece, in a way that suits the modern opera scene. This new version preserves the work’s unparalleled power and majesty, while simultaneously making the piece more logistically viable.
The real challenge of this work was to preserve all the orchestral colours that makes Korngold’s sound so unique, so this resulted in creating an opera with a “flexible” instrumentation. By opening up the options of performing the work either with nearly the same forces as the original version, or with an orchestra of half the number of musicians, this allows the work to enter the repertoire for a greater number of small theatres, touring companies and festivals, thereby allowing the work to be seen by a greater number of audiences for the future.
Many thanks to the Nederlandse Reisopera, Schott music and the members of the Korngold Estate for making this version of Heliane possible.
“Das Wunder der Heliane” will be performed throughout the Netherlands between September-November 2023, featuring Annemarie Kremer, Tillman Unger and Darren Jeffrey; played by the Noord Nederlands Orkest and conducted by Jac van Steen.
More information on this version of Heliane can be found in this article by Clare Varney: The Spidy Editor: Korngold “Heliane”
Tickets/info for remaining performances: Reisopera.nl/heliane