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The opera of the film? Eugen d’Albert’s Der Golem

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 September 2007

Abstract

Although Eugen d’Albert’s later works were a staple of new opera during the Weimar Republic, they have since been considered at best partially successful attempts to adapt his earlier and more successful ‘verismo’ idiom to the new post-war aesthetics. His 1926 opera Der Golem, however, helps to challenge this reputation. Its similarities to one of the most famous early German films, Robert Wegener’s 1920 Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam, point to an intriguing relationship with one of musical modernism’s most controversial nemeses: the cinema. An analysis of critical responses to d’Albert’s opera, read in the context of characteristic early twentieth-century debates about popularity, shows how Der Golem encouraged more complex responses to mass appeal than the clear rejection often attributed to better known figures of modernism. Although the opera both flirts with and problematises different modes of audience appeal – most notably in an early scene, which has a direct parallel in Wegener’s film – its reception avoids easy alignment with mass culture. Der Golem’s unmistakeable debt to its modernist context suggests that narratives of modernism should be able to account for d’Albert’s post-war works, rather than treating them as a throwback to the nineteenth century.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Cambridge University Press

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