Kent Nagano

Zemlinsky: Der König Kandaules

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Like it does with so many mediocre artists, it took a tragedy to transform Alexander von Zemlinsky into a great artist. Before he was forced out of Europe by the rise of the National Socialists, Zemlinsky had almost succeeded in writing what might have been his greatest opera, a three-act setting of Andre Gide's Der König Kandaules. But the Anschulss drove Zemlinsky out of Vienna in 1938 and with Der König Kandaules still unfinished, he died a broken man in New York in 1942. It took musicologist Antony Beaumont to set the score in order. It took the Hamburg Opera to give the work its world premiere in 1996. And it took the 2002 Salzburg Festival and especially Kent Nagano to bring Der König Kandaules to life. Because while the production was reported to be sumptuous and the singing is clearly voluptuous, it is Nagano's incandescent conducting that truly transforms Zemlinsky's score into the darkest and most despairing opera since Wozzeck. As this searing performance proves, out of the tragedy of his life, Zemlinsky's opera stands revealed as transcendently great art. Andante's live sound is too big and poorly focused, but nevertheless massively impressive.

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