Zemlinsky's "Der Traumgörge": WP of the critical edition

On September 30, 2020, Antony Beaumont’s critical edition of Alexander Zemlinsky’s opéra féerie, Der Traumgörge, was performed for the first time at the Opéra national de Lorraine in a co-production with the Opéra de Dijon. The Polish conductor Marta Gardolińska conducted a reduced version for chamber orchestra under the direction of Laurent Delvert. 

Der Traumgörge

Opera in 2 acts with epilogue
Libretto by Leo Feld World
5S.3T.2Bar.3B - Chr - - - timp.3perc - cel.2hp.git - str
World premiere: 11.09.1980, Nuremberg
World premiere of the critical edition in a reduced version: 30.09.20, Lorraine
Duration: 111'

Der Traumgörge WP, Lorraine 2020
Premiere of Görge le rêveur at Opéra national de Lorraine


Opéra de Lorraine, Laurent Delvert
(stage direction), Marta Gardolińska (musical direction)

Opéra de Dijon, Laurent Delvert
(stage direction), Marta Gardolińska (musical direction) 

About the work

October 14, 2021 will mark Zemlinsky’s 150th birthday. As director of the Vienna Court Opera, and after the great success of Zemlinsky’s Es war einmal, Gustav Mahler had planned to premier Der Traumgörge on October 4, 1907. Preparations for costumes and stage decorations were underway – but met by increasing anti-Semitic hostility, Mahler resigned from his post. Successor Felix von Weingartner pursued a different set of goals to those of his predecessor. Zemlinsky’s contract as the Court Opera’s conductor was not renewed either. As an integral part of the Viennese art scene, one can be sure that Zemlinsky’s work was known – at least in musician and composer circles – even without a premier. He had, after all, worked on the composition of this opera for three years between 1903 and 1906, and surely not in secret. The premiere finally took place over 70 year later in Nuremberg on October 11, 1980.

Traumgörge WP der kritischen Edition in Lorraine
Premiere of Görge le rêveur at Opéra national de Lorraine


The Miller wants his daughter Grete to marry her cousin Görge in order to keep the mill, which is the young man’s birthright. But Görge, a withdrawn dreamer and bookworm, remains elusive for Grete. Just before the two are to be engaged, her former sweetheart Hans returns home from military service, proposes to Grete and derides his “rival”. Görge has a vision and, instead of going to the betrothal, heads into the world of fantasy. Declaring “fairy-tales must come alive”, he sets off in search of the princess of his dreams. Three years later, he is living penniless and disillusioned in another village. He has sympathy only for society’s outcasts, including Gertraud, who is suspected of witchcraft and arson. The peasants are planning an uprising and want the eloquent Görge to abandon her and become their spokesman and leader. Gertraud contemplates suicide in order not to stand in the way of Görge’s happiness, but he defends her against the villagers’ attacks. The couple flee to his home village, where he takes over the mill. Görge realizes that his dream has been fulfilled. In Gertraud he has found the princess who once appeared to him in his dreams. 

Two acts – two worlds: the petit bourgeois village idyll with ripening grain and sunshine of Act I contrasts with the village of Act II, a wicked place where the inhabitants are motivated by envy, lust, hate and greed. At the end of the opera, in the so-called Epilogue, comes reconciliation and recognition by society. The piece appears to be an allegory of longing and exclusion as well as of integration of the “other” in the world. Zemlinsky first mentions his plan for an opera based on Heinrich Heine’s poem Der arme Peter (1821) in the summer of 1903 in letters to his brother-in-law and close friend Arnold Schoenberg. Another source of inspiration was Volkmann-Leander’s tale Vom unsichtbaren Königreiche (1871), and three years later the score of Zemlinsky’s third opera, Der Traumgörge, was finished. In its infinite richness and colour, the work is a highly developed example of the German tradition, with clearly recognizable musical and dramatic references to Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner. 

View the critical Editions
Photos: © Jean-Louis Fernandez, Bart Barczyk