Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Carl Orff - Die Kluge, Zurich Opera

Carl Orff's opera Die Kluge (The Clever One) premiered in February 1943, when the Russians routed the Germans at Stalingrad. The plot is based on a story from Brothers Grimm, so Orff could pass it off as recht and gut Fairy Tale. How could the Nazis object?  A tyrannical King appropriates a peasant's possessions, falsely imprisons people and makes insane judgements, such as believing that mules can give birth to foals. He threatens a peasant girl with death unless she can solvce his riddles, which she does, and he makes her his Queen. But no-one is safe from the madman, even at the top. The Queen is banished but yet again survives by being crafty. She convinces the King she loves him. "Nothing is more irrational than love".

Shirley Apthorp  saw the production at Opernhaus Zurich, but still follows the idea that Orff was some kind of Nazi sympathiser. Obviously Orff could not make the moral any clearer or he'd end up in prison like the peasant. Maybe some Nazis got it better than others. Apparently, Die Kluge was praised in Graz and condemned in Cottbus. Of course it's possible that some who applauded cheered because they recognized the double meaning.

The instrumentation and discography of Orff's Die Kluge can be found HERE
Wouldn't the message of Die Kluge have been more obvious had it been paired with K A Hartmann's Simplicius Simplicissimus?  Both pieces are relatively short and use similar unfussy orchestration. They're connected, too, as Hartmann knew Orff and dedicated the work to him.

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