Erich Wolfgang Korngold
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Die ToteStadt Marietta's Lied and Duet, Act 1


Jonas Kaufmann & Julia Kleiter; "Glück, das mir verblieb" LIVE Die Tote Stadt; Korngold

In spite of my desire to remain mystically ignorant of Korngold’s context regarding Marietta’s Lied, a conversation thread on Facebook has not allowed it.

The aria comes in the first act of Die Tote Stadt which Korngold wrote when he was a precocious 23-year-old. The context of the piece is as follows.

Paul’s wife Marie has died and in the aftermath he creates a disturbing shrine to her memory. Paul meets a woman named Marietta and invites her over. Get it? Marie/Marie-tta.

We don’t see the initial interaction. Paul arrives at his home and informs his visiting friend Frank of Marietta’s advent. Frank leaves and Marietta arrives.

It is during this visit that "Marietta’s Lied" falls. She offers to sing a song during her visit and Paul says yes. However, it isn’t a solo aria but a duet with Paul the tenor.

I must admit I like it better as a soprano aria. The tenors who sing the role of Paul are pretty much heldentenor types. Not all heldentenors can sing their bit as well as the soprano — at all.

You will not find a better tenor in this role than James King, yet even he struggles.

Jonas Kaufmann might be the best option out there at the moment and he does a miraculous job of “floating” the piece.

The text is nice and melancholic and incorporates Paul’s infatuation with his dead spouse in the final verse. Paul is quite aware that the text reflects his necrophilia, but Marietta sings it in ignorance as a sad song. Later in the show, Paul reveals his creeper side to Marietta and she tries to help him confront the memory of his wife. How does that turn out? Not good, not good.

  • Joy, that near to me remains,
  • Come to me, my true love.
  • Night sinks into the grove You are my light and day.
  • Anxiously beats heart on heart Hope itself soars heavenward.
  • How true, a sad song.
  • The song of true love,
  • that must die.
  • I know the song.
  • I heard it often in younger,
  • in better days.
  • It has yet another verse —
  • Do I know it still?
  • Though sorrow becomes dark,
  • Come to me, my true love.
  • Lean (to me) your pale face Death will not separate us.
  • If you must leave me one day,
  • Believe, there is an afterlife.
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