Fairness for Fredigundis!  
Fred and Hubby

Who Was Fredigundis?

 The Historical Fredigund or Fredigunda  (Latin:Fredegundis;French: Frédégonde) was a Frankish Queen (d. 597) who made some brutal dictators of the current day seem like teddy bears in comparison. Having been dead now for over 1400 years, we need not be much concerned about her or her minions creating much mischief, as they once certainly did. More importantly today, Fredigundis is the title of "the greatest opera nobody ever heard," composed by Austrian composer (student of Anton Bruckner) Franz Schmidt (22 December, 1874 -- 11 February 1939) with a libretto (based on a textual account of the title character by Felix Dahn) by Bruno Warden  and Ignaz Welliminsky. It was first performed in 1922, with only 3 subsequent  performances in all the decades since. The most recent was a concert performance under the auspices of the Austrian Rado, Recorded Sept. 27, 1979, in the Grosser Musikvereinssaal, Wien, and released a year or so afterward on vinyl on the Voce Label. The performance was wonderful, but the recording made was of rather inferior quality. Thus the need for, at least as a minimum, a fifth performance, with a professional quality recording for commercial release. This website exists in the hope of furthering that cause.  
       Why the problem with preformances? Different people have different ideas on this. Some blame the libretto, others blame the character flaws in the title character herself. Another is probably the fact that it was written 90 years ago and never got establihed in the standard opera repertior. As a result, audiences of today do not know it and therefore do not request their local symphony orchestras or opera companies to perform it. In any case, despite the darker aspects of the story it tells (worse than Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin, or the end of Berg's Lulu? Probably not) the music is wonderful. In fact, the music itself doesn't get at all dark until Act 3. In fact, if you listen to the excerpt linked below from the middle of act 2 below, you might find that the music spounds strangely familiar. This is because (I don't know for certain, but would be strongly inclined to assume) a very lucky guy named Jerome Kern attended the premier in Berlin in 1922, and got carried away with it (either consciously or subconsciously, no scandal either way in my view). That is to say, his  most enduring song,
The Way You Look Tonight, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzbT3BDlGKM if the link fails is but a slight variation of the main theme used in this opera. The main difference is that in the opera, it's heard either in march time, or as part of one of the many "royal fanfares." Stylistically, the music of the opera is slightly shy of being midway between Schmidt's Second Symphony and his Oratorio The Book of Seven Seals.  More specifically, the first two acts are pretty close to the Second Symphony. The third act (which earlier audiences probably found the least palatible) is somewhat more advanced harmonically, although not particularly by todays's standards.
A few samples (after much equalization of the source. Yes, the original vinyl sounded much worse):
Overture
End of Act 1
Excerpt from Middle of Act 2
Act 2 Conclusion
Excerpt from middle of Act 3
Conclusion of Act 3
 
    What can you do to promote this cause? If you have the considerable financial resources that would be required, contact your local opera of Symphony orchestra administrative office-- especially if you live in Chicago or Los Angeles. If you live in Detroit), the orchestra is in particular financial need, and would probably welcome such a project. If you're considerably less affluent, as am I, simply try to spread the good word about this opera to others who might like it.


Franz Schmidt

         Franz Schmidt

Ernst Marzendorfer


Ernst Märzendorfer

Born 26 May 1921 in Oberndorf (close to Salzburg), Austria.
Died 16 September 2009 in Vienna, Austria.
He was an Austrian conductor, composer, music scientist,
and the only conductor in the second half of the 20th century known to have conducted Franz Schmidt's Fredigundis.



jk
Jerome Kern
(January 27, 1885 – November 11, 1945) was an American composer of musical theatre and popular music-- and a man who knew a good German opera when he heard one. Attended the Berlin Premier of Fredigundis in 1922 and was blown away by it. "What do I care about structural problems with the libretto?" he is rumored to have said. "I don't know *&^%ing German anyway! This music rocks!"  Not being able to sleep that night. Schmidt's glorious music resonating nonstop in his head, he took out a pen and some music paper and sketched the music for The Way you Look Tonight.


More content to come as well. If you wish to
email me, please do so at moose@sanclementemoose.com





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