Korngold’s The Silent Serenade: At Last!

The highest praise must go to the small labels! It is thanks to them that we finally get repertoire into our homes and out of our speakers that we could only dream of before. For example, Korngold’s Die Stumme Serenade, released on CD by CPO three years ago.

Die Stumme Serenade is Korngold’s last opera and was only known to the general public (well, not so general really)  through the Serenade. To honour the fiftieth anniversary of his death, the opera was staged in Munich in 2007, the first time since the production was recorded for Austrian radio in 1951 (Korngold himself conducted from behind the piano) and the totally unsuccessful premiere in 1954.
Two years later it was repeated in St. Gallen and then again in Freiburg, with all young people in the leading roles. And there it was recorded live.

The story is thin. It is basically a snippet about a celebrated actress and the fashion designer in love with her, who claims to have come to her house to perform a serenade for her. But since nobody has heard of it, it is called the ‘Stumme’ (Silent) Serenade.

All the Korngoldian elements are present: Viennese bonbons, languor, melody and a little (well, a lot) “schmalz”. It is a bit musical-like, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Think of Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. And yes, it is somewhat sweet. Think Lehár also. Actually, it is a mix of opera, operetta and revue, nothing wrong with that!

Sarah Wegener is a delightful Silvia Lombardi. Birger Radde (Andrea) is not really a high-flyer, but actually I do not mind, as I am so happy to finally own the recording.

I think it is a pity that the production has not been released on DVD, because seeing the trailer made my mouth water (unfortunately it is no longer available on You Tube).

But – something is better than nothing, so: thanks CPO!

Recording from 1951, Korngold conducts:

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