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Franz Schreker: Der ferne Klang

  • Opera in 3 acts (1903-1910)
  • 3 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1 - timp(2), perc(3), glock, hp(2), cel, str - behind the scene: Venetian music (fl, cl, 2 hn, timp, tamb, hp, 3 mand, 2 guit, str.quin), on the stage: Gipsy music (cl, cimb, str.quin), behind the scene: pno
  • Duration: 140’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute
    2nd flute (+picc)
    3rd flute (+picc)
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    3rd oboe (+c.a)
    1st clarinet in A (+cl(Bb))
    2nd clarinet in A (+cl(Bb))
    bass clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    4th horn in F
    1st trumpet in C
    2nd trumpet in C
    3rd trumpet in C (+bass tpt)
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    3rd trombone
    bass tuba (+cb.tuba)
    1st percussion
    2nd percussion
    3rd percussion
    1st harp
    2nd harp
    violin I
    violin II
    venetian music (cont.aind the scene): flute
    clarinet in A (+cl(Bb))
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    1st mandolin
    2nd mandolin
    3rd mandolin
    1st guitar
    2nd guitar
    1st violin
    2nd violin
    gypsy music (on the stage): clarinet in D (+cl(Eb))
    1st violin
    2nd violin
    piano (cont.aind the scene)
  • Choir: SATB
  • Roles: Der alte Graumann, bass Seine Frau, mezzo-soprano Grete, soprano Fritz, tenor Der Wirt, bass Ein Schmierenschauspieler, baritone Dr. Vigelius, high bass Ein altes Weib, mezzo-soprano or high alto Greta, soprano Mizi, soprano Milli, mezzo-soprano Mary soprano Eine Spanierin, alto Der Graf, baritone Der Baron, bass Der Chevalier, tenor Rudolf, high bass or baritone Erster Chorist, tenor Zweiter Chorist, bass Die Kellnerin, mezzo-soprano Ein zweifelhaftes Individuum, tenor Ein Polizeimann, bass Ein Diener, speaking part Gäste / Kellner / Kellnerinnen / Gesinde des Gasthauses / Mädchen / Tänzerinnen aller Nationen / Männer und Frauen, zum Teil maskiert / Theaterpersonal / Theaterbesucher / Wagenausrufer
  • Composer: Franz Schreker
  • Librettist: Franz Schreker
  • Piano reduction: Alban BergFerdinand Rebay
  • Dedication: Herrn k.k. Hofopernkapellmeister Bruno Walter in Dankbarkeit zugeeignet.

Work introduction

It was Der ferne Klang, following its premiere in Frankfurt Opera House on 18 August 1912, that established Schreker as one of the most widely performed operatic composers in Germany. 20 years later, he was branded a degenerate. In the libretto that he had written himself for his drama about the failure of love and the decline of an artist, Schreker packaged together everything that was de rigueur at the time: fin de siècle artistic themes, Freud’s discovery of the unconscious and the naturalist poetry of misery. Schreker’s sound universe is characterised by stylistic diversity, with extensive use being made of instruments such as the harp, celesta and piano. With singular virtuosity, he brings together a wide cross-section of sound sources, fusing the standard orchestra with gypsy music and Venetian music played from various distances from the stage and adding a distant chorus as well. The unbelievable magic of Schreker’s orchestral sound is not easily forgotten.

The storyline for Schreker’s opera covers a period of 15 years. The opera takes place in Germany and Venice circa 1900. Young composer Fritz leaves his Grete, no longer able to stand the petit bourgeois confines of his surroundings and feeling that he is destined for greater things. His plan is to return when he is famous and offer her riches, celebrity and his undying love. Grete is gambled away by her alcoholic father to a landlord and goes on the run. At the end of her tether, she is taken up by a matchmaker and agrees to follow her. After some time, Fritz – driven by a yearning for Grete – finds her again in the dance salon “La Casa di Maschere”, where she is now a courtesan called Greta. Fritz calls her a harlot and leaves again. Greta succumbs to the advances of a Count who had been wooing her for a long time in vain. Five years later, Fritz succeeds in having his opera “The Harp” premiered in a court theatre. Grete, who has since been abandoned by the Count and is now a common streetwalker called Tini, was at the performance. However, when she recognises herself in the main protagonist, she feels faint. The premiere turns into a fiasco. Grete learns that Fritz is terminally ill. The two of them meet again. However, their new-found happiness together comes too late: Fritz finds his mysterious “distant sound”, the mirage of which he has been chasing all his life, while dying in the arms of his long-lost love, Grete.


The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

Oper Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main (DE)
Ludwig Rottenberg


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