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Leoš Janá?ek based his final opera on his own libretto after Dostojevsky’s Memoirs from the House of the Dead. He wrote, drafted and revised the opera in full score during 1927 - 1928. He then had it copied out by two of his long-established copyists (Václav Sedlá?ek and Jaroslav Kulhánek), who shared the work between them. Janá?ek supervised the copying and the correction of their score, making many changes and additions which resulted in new pages having to be inserted. Then he began a final check through the score, adding extra doublings, dynamics and other details in his own hand. He completed Acts 1 and 2 in this way, but died before he had checked Act 3. In other words, except for a final check of Act 3 and any last-minute alterations Janá?ek might have made at rehearsals, From the House of the Dead is no less finished than any other Janá?ek opera.

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Die Gezeichneten was originally commissioned by Alexander Zemlinsky, who asked Franz Schreker to write a libretto for him to set to music – a libretto that would tell “the tragedy of the ugly man”. However, Schreker was so taken with the material that he used it as a basis for his own major operatic work. The triumphant success of the premiere established Schreker for once and for all as one of the leading operatic composers of the early 20th century. Until being outlawed by the Nazis, this work even went so far as to rival Richard Strauss’ operas. Die Gezeichneten faded into obscurity for many decades and was only rediscovered thanks to a performance in Frankfurt in 1979. This forgotten masterpiece has now assumed its rightful place on the world’s stages and has since been seen more and more often in opera house repertoires. Although not written until between 1913 and 1915, Schreker’s opera Die Gezeichneten is a fin de siècle drama in which, alongside moments of decadence, the focus is on the essential contrast between art and life. The opera is based on Frank Wedekind’s play Hidalla oder Sein und Haben and takes place in Renaissance-era Genoa. Ugly and crippled nobleman Alviano Salvago has a paradise called Elysium built on an island near the city, to be devoted to art and beauty. On account of his own ugliness, however, he has never set foot on the island himself. He would like to gift this paradise to the city of Genoa and to make it accessible to all its citizens. Against Alviano’s will, the dashing and confident aristocrat Tamare has set up a brothel on the island in which Genoese noblemen abuse kidnapped girls. The two men are both vying for the affections of painter Carlotta. Recognising the noble soul beneath Alviano’s deformed exterior, she expresses a desire to paint him, he agrees, and the two fall in love. However, Carlotta is also attracted by Tamare’s good looks and allows herself to be seduced by him. Alviano catches them both red-handed and kills Tamare. As Carlotta dies of despair next to his dead body, Alviano loses his mind.

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Karol Szymanowski

Stabat Mater

for soprano, alto, baritone, mixed choir and orchestra

Unlike the works Karol Szymanowski composed during the first two decades of the 20th century, his Stabat Mater could only have been written in a country with Slavic culture. Drawing on his musical roots and mother tongue, he wrote a transparent score for soloists, mixed choir and orchestra. It is all fascinatingly simple. The melodies consist of minor and major seconds and thirds and the pace of most movements is slow; only the second movement has a rhythm and melody that seem to pre-empt Orff’s Carmina Burana. It is a unique masterpiece of oratorio. Stabat Mater at culture.pl

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