Erich Wolfgang Korngold
(born Moravia 29 May 1897; died Los Angeles 29 November 1957)
Die tote Stadt (The City of the Dead) is widely known as a peak of Korngold’s classical career, composed at the age of 23. With a libretto co-authored with his father, Die tote Stadt is an adaptation of the novella Bruges la Morte by Georges Rodenbach. More information can be found in our Introduction to The Dead City.
Korngold's Musical Style
Truly a product of his time, Korngold brings together composers that came before as well as his contemporaries, with an overarching Hollywood sheen that became synonymous with early cinematic scores in his later years.
Taking the practice of leitmotif from Richard Wagner and mixing with orchestral stylings of Mahler, Puccini and Strauss, Korngold’s music is exciting to both opera buffs and newcomers alike.
Arguably the most famous Korngold opera is The City of Dead (Die tote Stadt) which explores the complex relationship between life and death through the eyes of a troubled, recently bereaved widow. However, Korngold composed many other notable works during his time which include Das Wunder der Heliane (The Miracle of Heliane) and Violanta – a one act opera composed when he was only 17.
Korngold, born in 1897 to an already musical family (with older brother Hans becoming a musician, and father Leopold a music critic), and quickly became a musical prodigy – able to play complex piano pieces competently at the age of 5, and beginning his first foray into composing at age 7. By 11, he was composing full ballets, the first of which was The Snowman (Der Schneemann), which was performed at Vienna Grand Opera.
Korngold later fled Europe amidst the rise of Nazism, with a lucrative offer to move to Hollywood to score for notable director Max Reinhardt. What followed was a career split between classical work and scoring for Hollywood films, winning multiple Oscars (for his Anthony Adverse and The Adventures of Robin Hood scores) and gaining a reputation as a pioneering composer in the golden age of Hollywood.