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Der Kreidekreis [The Chalk Circle] – a Chinese ‘detective story’ from the 14th century – tells of the fate of a poor girl exposed to the caprices of power. The dramatic climax is a trial of motherhood against a rival: the real mother puts the welfare of the child before her own happiness. The structure of the opera is as complex and full of variety as the story is simple. Typically for Alexander Zemlinsky, it contains a fascinating mixture of drama and lyricism. It intertwines Wagneriana with banal music and cabaret scenes à la Kurt Weill, mixes Mahler and Strauss with far-eastern sounds, while singing, speaking and playing all take place on stage.