Goldmark was the first of several composers to write a work based on Heinrich von Kleist’s controversial play, Penthesilea. Early critical opinion about the overture was divided. Hanslick found it distasteful, whereas others were thrilled by Goldmark’s powerful treatment of the subject. Composed in 1879, during the 1880s Penthesilea became established in orchestral repertoire throughout Europe and America. The overture represents the conflict of violence and sexual attraction between the Queen of the Amazons and Achilles. Exoticism in the play is achieved by contrasting brutal violence, irrational behaviour and extreme sensual passion. This is recreated musically by drawing on topics established in opera. Of particular note is the use of dissonance and unexpected modulations, together with extreme rhythmic and dynamic contrast. A key feature of the music is the interplay between military rhythms representing violence and conflict, and a legato, rocking theme which suggests desire and sensuality.
Karl Goldmark (1830–1915) was undoubtedly one the most influential composers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and through his first opera – The Queen of Sheba – he was also very well-known abroad. This opera, with its very fashionable oriental subject, was first performed in Vienna in 1875 and was one of the greatest successes of the period. After Merlin (1886) and The Cricket on the Hearth (1896), a “song-opera” strongly influenced by the Biedermeier-period, Goldmark wrote three operas over the next ten years. A Prisoner of War (libretto E. Schlicht, premiered in 1899 in Vienna) was based on one episode of the Iliad. In this short opera the composer tried to express the change of Achilles’ soul, but he mostly failed due to a relatively weak and conventional libretto and vague musical style. In the following opera, Götz von Berlichingen (libretto A. M. Willner, premiered 1902) the libretto is also the weakest element of the work and the whole opera reminds one of Meyerbeer ’s operas. The composer found a renewed inspiration during the work on his last opera – The Winter’s Tale (libretto by Alfred Maria Willner after Shakespeare, premiered in 1907 in Vienna). This fairy tale opera is full of interesting musical moments and elements written in Goldmark’s late style and is still attractive for the opera-going public.
In his autobiography, Goldmark boasted that he had employed four distinct orientalist idioms in his works: one in Sakuntala and three in Die Königin von Saba. Actually, his deployment of orientalist signifiers was a lot more varied and subtle than that. None of them, moreover, was based on actual ethnographic models. All were purely imaginary and conventional – and for that reason legible and effective. This essay surveys and classifies them, analyzes their motivation and effect, and compares them with the practice of contemporaries such as Anton Rubinstein and Camille Saint-Saëns.
If Bedřich Smetana is thought to be the father of Czech national opera, Antonín Dvořák and Zdeněk Fibich would be his sons. Czech critics as well as the public expected that Smetana’s successors would bring Czech opera to international recognition. Dvořák and Fibich gave increased attention to opera composition during the 1890s and the beginning of the twentieth century. They both crowned their achievements with monumental operas on subjects with historical settings: Fibich’s The Fall of Arkona (1900) and Dvořák‘s Armida (1904). The reason for this apparent coincidence was, in part, that these works were written after Wagner’s operas and before the operatic successes of Richard Strauss, when it was possible to devise free combinations of symphonically composed scenes, arioso-like vocal lines influenced by verismo, and the dramaturgical effects of grand opera. As a praised model for successful historical opera might have served Karl Goldmark’s famous work Die Königin von Saba, especially in the case of Fibich’s last opera, which was explicitly compared with Goldmark’s opera. Operas on historical subjects form a little-known part of the works of Czech composers, but they extend from Smetana’s piece The Brandenburgers in Bohemia through the late operas of Dvořák and Fibich to Janáček’s two-part opera The Excursions of Mr Brouček. It is a line of operas that present an unforgettable counterpart to many successful Czech theatrical compositions – representative operas and intimate tragedies, comic operas and fairy tales, generally written on subjects from Czech villages and mythology, including Smetana’s Bartered Bride and Libuše, Fibich’s The Tempest and Šárka, Dvořák’s Jakobín, Kate and the Devil and Rusalka, Josef Bohuslav Foerster’s Eva, as well as Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa.
-Kassettendecken mit Ölbilder, so auch das Musikzimmer, wo auch der Komponist Karl Goldmark ein häufiger Gast der Familie Russ war. Ein schlossartiger Bau vom gleichen Charakter und Niveau hat Handler für den Baron Sólymossy in Nagylózs (Komitat Győr–Moson–Sopron) im