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Zemlinsky's A Florentine Tragedy this week on The Lyric Stage

Zemlinsky may have written the opera to make a point about Alma Mahler. Listen Sunday (8/14) at 8 pm.

The Viennese composer Alexander Zemlinksy (1871-1942) led a remarkable life. Johannes Brahms encouraged him and gave him entre to his publisher. Gustav Mahler conducted the premiere of one of his operas. He composed works in many musical combinations, both chamber and orchestral, including eight operas. His students included Arnold Schoenberg and Erich Korngold.

At the turn of the century Zemlinsky was very much in love with his pupil Alma Schindler, and wanted to marry her. But she instead chose Gustav Mahler as her husband and she and Mahler married in 1902. Though Zemlimsky later twice married, at least once happily, he never seemed to recover from Alma’s rejection. When Alma Mahler had an affair with Walter Gropious in 1910, Zemlinsky took Mahler's side. The conventional wisdom is that Bianca, the adulterous wife in his one act opera A Florentine Tragedy, is based on Alma Mahler. She thought so, anyway, and never forgave her former lover Zemlinsky.

This week on The Lyric Stage, we have A Florentine Tragedy for you. It premiered in Vienna in 1917, and is based on an unfinished play by Oscar Wilde. The scene is Florence in the 16th century. The aging merchant Simone discovers his younger wife, Bianca, at home with the young Guido, Prince of Florence. Simone kills his rival and also intends to kill Bianca, but his manliness reawakens her passion for him and they reconcile.

Iris Vermillion sings the adulterous wife Bianca; Bass-Baritone Alberto Dohmen is her husband, Simone, and Tenor Heinz Kruse Bianca's lover, Count Guido. Ricardo Chailly conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.