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date: 11 December 2019

Glückliche Hand, Die (‘The Fortunate Hand’)locked

  • O.W. Neighbour

Extract

(‘The Fortunate Hand’)

Drama mit Musik, op. 18, in one act by Arnold Schoenberg to his own libretto; Vienna, Volksoper, 14 October 1924.

This work was begun in 1910, but much of the music, including the first and last of the four scenes, was not composed until 1912–13. Like its companion piece, Erwartung, it contains only one singing character. It is shorter, lasting only 20 minutes or so, but the action is far more complex, involving two mimed roles, a chorus and elaborate scenic effects synchronized with constantly changing coloured lighting. This last feature was also used by Kandinsky in Der gelbe Klang, but Schoenberg did not know about it at the time. His conception coincides with his own most intense period of activity as a painter.

At the beginning the protagonist (baritone) is discovered lying on the ground with a fabulous monster on his back. Through holes in the backcloth can be seen the disembodied faces of a chorus of 12 soloists, six women and six men. Partly singing and partly speaking they ask why he, though endowed with capacity for the spiritual, constantly renews his quest for an earthly happiness which always eludes him. A gust of vulgar music and mocking laughter off stage marks the transition to a different sphere of experience. The man stands up; he is ragged, scarred and bleeding. A young woman (silent) enters. He never looks at her but is aware of her presence and sings of his love. She offers him a goblet, but as he drinks her sympathy fades; a well-dressed gentleman (silent) enters and she goes to him. The man senses what has happened; she returns and kneels for forgiveness, but as he regains his happiness she retreats once more. He does not notice, and is now seen as a self-confident hero entering a rocky landscape indicated precisely but not naturalistically by colours and forms....

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