Longborough festival opera

The opera that wouldn’t die

When Erich Wolfgang Korngold completed his third opera, Die tote Stadt, in August 1920, he’d barely turned 23. Yet such was his reputation that what followed was practically a Europe-wide bidding war for rights to the première. The young composer had his pick of companies and conductors (the Vienna State Opera tried and failed). In the end – almost unprecedentedly – Die tote Stadt was launched on the same night in two cities simultaneously. Audiences in Hamburg and Cologne both erupted into applause, but Korngold, who could be in only one place, had chosen Hamburg – where he was so dazed by the response that Richard Strauss, who was present

There’s no better sonic hangover cure: New Year’s Day Concert reviewed

The best moment in the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Day Concert comes after the end of the advertised programme. The conductor gives a tiny gesture, the violins start a shimmer of tremolando, and a ripple of applause spreads through the hall. At this point, if you’re watching with first-timers, they’ll look at you, surprised. Why have they stopped? And you smile, because you know what the conductor knows, what the orchestra knows and what even the audience in the Musikverein — those bejewelled Eurostiffs in their £1,000 seats — knows. We’re about to hear The Blue Danube, and music doesn’t get any better than that. Well, that’s how it