MAHLER
Powerhouse
< Lied................ Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde
< Voices............
Ben Heppner & Ann Sophie von Otter
< Orchestra....... MET Orchestra / James Levine
< Hall................ Carnegie Hall

Dunkel ist das Leben,
ist der Tod!


(Dark is life, is death!)
This is the refrain of what is perhaps the most hauntingly moving drinking song in the musical repertory. Lamenting man's fundamental loneliness, it is the first of the six songs that make up Gustav Mahler's sublime Das Lied von der Erde, his last orchestral song cycle, aptly subtitled "a symphony for tenor and alto (or baritone) voices and orchestra," and echoes the state of Mahler's soul at the time of the work's creation.
I weep in my loneliness;
autumn stays too long in my heart.
Having just lost a daughter to disease, his career with the Vienna Court opera coming to an end, and suddenly having to face the reality of his own heart ailment, he is gripped with a sense of impending death, of autumn come to set early on his life.
On the small pool's still surface
everything shows clearly,
magically, like a mirror image...
Friends,
finely clothed, drink and chatter.
He ponders the fleetingness of his existence and sings...
....of
the joyful, carefree days of youth long gone,
Golden sunshine envelopes their forms,
itself reflected in the shining water.
...of fair maidens picking flowers and lads racing spirited horses in the Spring - now all but a reflection on the still waters of one's memories.
If life is no more than a dream
why then the shouts and tears?
...I drink until the moon shines bright:
I'll snare it in my cup!
Seeking solace, he takes to drink and revels in the Spring of drunken sleep instead.
I seek peace for my lonely heart.
I wander toward my homeland....
The loving earth, everywhere, everywhere flowers in springtime,
becomes green again....
forever... forever...!

Ewig... ewig...!
Until the final parting of friend from friend. Then his restless soul sings its farewell song and swoons into blissful union with Nature divine, with the earth in a season of eternal Spring.
It was a stirring performance
on a beautiful Spring afternoon in New York City,
by powerhouse voices
and a powerhouse orchestra
in a powerhouse hall.


MORE>
Tenor Ben Heppner, Mezzo-soprano Anne Sophie von Otter, and Metropolitan Opera Artistic Director James Levine.
Carnegie Hall, April 25, 1999.

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