Eine Frau von Heute

I don’t usually associate Arnold Schoenberg with comedy but he did write a one act comic opera Von Heute auf Morgen which premiered in 1929.  It was an attempt to cash in on the vogue for satirical operas on modern themes characterised by Brecht and Weill and , if a bit slight and lacking Brechtian punch, it works well enough.  A bourgeios husband and wife have returned from an evening out where they have met an iold friend of the wife who has become something of a femme fatale.  There’s also a singer, inevitably a tenor, involved.  The husband is rabbiting on rather gormlessly about the charms of the “other woman” so his wife decides to teach him a lesson.  She apes the manners of a “modern woman”, neglects their child, plans assignations etc.  There’s a long phone conversation inwhich the “friend” and the singer invite them back to the bar.  By now the husband is beginning to realise what he stands to lose.  The wife realises she has won.  The other couple show up and there’s a “modern” vs. “traditional” quartet after which the “moderns” leave in disgust and the husband and wife revort to bourgeois domesticity.

1.couchIn Andreas Homoki’s production recorded at La Fenice in 2008 all this is played out on a simple set; a couch, a couple of travelling wardrobes and a backdrop covered in words like “Modern”.  Costumes are period appropiate and the acting veers between naturalistic and French farce.  It works well enough.  The performances are fine too with a very funny account of the wife from Brigitte Geller and a rather more eye rolling husband from Georg Nigl.  Matthias Schulz and Sonia Visentin make the most of their brief appearances as singer and friend.

2.dressThe music is classic Schoenberg; twelve tone with some jazz influences here and there.  It’s very well played by the La Fenice orchestra under Eliahu Inbal.  It’s well recorded too.  The stereo track is bright and clear but the Dolby surround track has more depth and presence.  Video direction by Davide Mancini focusses on the principals which is fair enough as there really isn’t anything else to film.  The picture on DVD is plenty good enough for the intimate setting.  There isn’t much documentation; just a very short essay, a synopsis and a tracklisting and, despite the work being scarcely an hour long, there are no extras on the disc.  Subtitle options are English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

3.quartetI don’t think this is a great masterpiece but it’s worth seeing by anyone interested in either Schoenberg or 1920s music theatre.  It certainly gets a decent portrayal on this disk.

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