„Neues vom Tage“ in Lüneburg
The Berlin of the "golden" 1920s – modern, lively and excitingly fast: this is the backdrop for the opera Neues vom Tage. Hindemith, who lived in Berlin beginning in 1927, was fascinated by this pulsing major city. He experienced the spectacular performances of contemporary stage works and of classics in modern productions, saw films with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, attended operettas and spent evenings at cabarets and vaudeville shows. Thus he made the acquaintance of Marcellus Schiffer, one of the most successful and brilliant cabaret authors of his time, whose reviews breathe the typical Berlin spirit of this epoch. Together with Schiffer, Hindemith conceived his first comic opera Neues vom Tage in 1928/29. It is considered an outstanding example of a "Zeitoper" (opera of the times); its plot takes place in the present day, including everyday stories with domestic scenes in the living room, at the registry office and in a hotel. Modern props such as typewriters, telephones, lifts, railways and even airplanes belong to the characteristics of this genre which stimulated the interest of such composers as Kurt Weill, Ernst Krenek and Arnold Schönberg during the late 1920s.
Hindemith's and Schiffer's opera is about Laura and Eduard, who are fed up with their marriage and want to get divorced. But to do this, they need a reason for getting a divorce. They find out from Mr. and Mrs. M. (just recently happily divorced) that the "Office of Family Affairs, Ltd." can mediate a reason for divorce in the person of the handsome Mr. Hermann. With him, it is agreed upon that Eduard is to "catch his wife in the act" at a feigned love scene in a museum. But Eduard becomes truly jealous when viewing the scene, destroying a valuable statue in a rage and ending up in jail charged with vandalism. Laura, meanwhile, moves into a hotel. Whilst sitting in the bathtub, she is harassed by the handsome Mr. Hermann. Mrs. M., herself in love with Hermann, feels betrayed and summons the entire hotel personnel in order to provoke a scandal. The press greedily seizes upon the events and exploits them to the full. Released from jail, Eduard realises that he has no money to pay for the damage that he caused in the museum. The solution to end this dismal state of affairs is that Laura and Eduard perform in theatres and vaudeville shows, acting out their scandalous story. After a financially successful season, they are able to repay their debts and want to return to private life. Public opinion as represented by the press, however, forces them to continue performing their story on stage as "the latest news of the day".
For this social satire, Hindemith composed colourful, multi-facetted music, always intended as a parody, in which echoes of contemporary entertainment music, popular songs and dance music are combined with references to Puccini and Richard Strauss. The "comic opera" – as the subtitle reads – Neues vom Tage thus also reveals itself to be a parody of grand opera of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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