Dreams don’t come true

Imagine: you are young, beautiful and secretly in love with a revolutionary, who unfortunately is on his deathbed. Your relationship is “not done” and marriage is out of the question. You live in a small town, where there is no future for you.

One day, a prince presents himself. It is true: he is old and worn out. His beard and moustache are false, he wears a wig and he is a bit childish. But he is rich and actually quite nice. With his money you will be able to afford sending your lover to the Spanish sun, where he will definitely get better. And when the prince dies, there is nothing stopping you from marrying whoever you want. For this you are quite willing to sacrifice yourself, aren’t you?

Marja Alexandrowna is a cunning woman. She knows how to get her daughter Sina to agree to her little plan to hook the prince (albeit reluctantly). The prince is served a substantial meal, liberally sprinkled with wine. Sina sings an aria, the prince gets another liqueur, and yes: he asks for Sina’s hand. Alas, everything goes haywire.

Both Paul, a distant relative of the prince and in love with Sina, and Nastassja, a poor relative of Maria Alexandrowna and herself interested in the prince, throw a spanner in the works.

When the prince awakens from his nap, he readily accepts Paul’s explanation that his proposal only took place in a dream. Meanwhile, Nastasia makes sure that all the ladies of the town are informed of the incident. Mother and daughter are laughed at, Sina confesses the premeditated plan, the prince forgives her and leaves. And meanwhile, Sina’s lover dies.

Verlobung im Traum is an unusual opera. The action is captured within a frame narrative. The story is told to us by an archivist of Mordasov. In the prologue, he introduces the main characters to us; in the epilogue, we hear how things continue with Sina and her mother.

The story, literally after Dostoevsky’s “Uncle’s Dream” was adapted into a libretto by Rudolf Fuchs and Rudolf Thomas.

Trailer from Karlsruhe in 2014:

Verlobung im Traum was awarded the State Prize for Composition in 1933 and in the same year it was also performed: first for the Prague Radio and a few months later at the German Theatre in Prague. Georg Szell conducted and Hilde Konetzny sang Sina. The success was great, but further performances were out of the question. After all, it was already 1933.

The music is nowhere atonal, one detects strong influences of Poulenc, but Mahler is also quite close.

Krása sprinkles liberally with jazz influences and the saxophone takes a prominent place in the orchestra. Perhaps most remarkable is the “revenge duet” at the end of the first act: an ironic replacement for the usual “love duet”?

Anda-Luise Bogsa sings Sina:

And then we come to “Casta Diva”: Sina, in her attempt to seduce the prince, sings the beautiful aria from Bellini’s “Norma”. Instead of the original chorus, we get a quartet: the mother, the prince and, behind-the-scene, the eavesdropping Nastassja and Paul are each commenting on Sina’s singing….

Hans Krása in Teresienstadt

Born in 1899, the composer was a true “bon-vivant”. He spent his days at the coffee house, at the opera or playing chess with his friend Thomas. Little time was left for composing.

Krása spent a short time in Paris (at the invitation of his kindred spirits from “Les Six”), but nostalgia for Prague was stronger and so he returned to his homeland, just in time to be sent to Teresienstadt. On 17 October 1944, he was gassed in Auschwitz, along with Ullmann, Haas and Klein.

 “Das schönste sind im Leben diese Träume, die erfüllen, was unerfüllbar ist”

Hans Krása
Verlobung im Traum
Christianne Berggold, Charlotte Hellekant, Juanita Lascarro, Jane Henschel, Albert Dohmen
Ernst Senff Chor Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin olv Lothar Zagrosek
Decca 4555872

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