- Christopher Palmer
Opera in one act, op.8, by Erich Wolfgang Korngold to a libretto by Hans Müller; Munich, Staatsoper, 28 March 1916.
Violanta is Korngold’s third stage work, and was first presented in a double bill with its immediate predecessor Der Ring des Polykrates. The composer’s father, in collaboration with the librettist Hans Müller, was responsible for the choice of subject, described by the former as ‘a red-hot Renaissance drama’. Korngold’s first attempt at tragedy was a success, and in the following few years received further performances in Germany and abroad. It is a work of great harmonic, melodic and formal discipline, but it also has a remarkable eloquence and authority of expression, particularly in the depiction of physical passion, which belie its composer’s tender years.
The opera is set in 15th-century Venice. Simone Trovai (baritone), is angry that his wife Violanta has been indifferent to him ever since her sister was seduced by Alfonso, Prince of Naples. Violanta (soprano) appears, saying that she has arranged a meeting with Alfonso, and that Simone must avenge her sister by murdering him. Reluctantly, Simone agrees. Violanta’s nurse (contralto) sings a soothing lullaby as her mistress awaits Alfonso. Eventually Alfonso (tenor) arrives and declares his love. Violanta warns Alfonso that he is about to die, but as he describes his unhappy childhood Violanta realizes that she has loved him all along. Simone rushes in to find the couple embracing. He attempts to stab Alfonso, but instead mortally wounds Violanta, who dies in his arms....