Hindemith's first full-length opera Cardillac, Op. 39 (based on a libretto by Ferdinand Lion) is considered both the epitome and the principal work of the «New Objectivity.»
The goldsmith Cardillac is, as an «autonomically» creative artist, a «negative hero», a pathological, abnormally obsessed loner who murders those who buy his jewellery in order to regain possession of it. As the creator of an art with a fatal lack of compromise, turning away from those who want to use it, he is the «victim of a holy madness» who slays the people in order to protect himself from his murderous actions.
For this, Hindemith writes a virtuosic concertante music as he had developed in his series of Kammermusiken. There is no direct relationship of word to sound, no sense of empathising, but the music is directly related to the plot in its fundamental constructive principles; there is a series of variations, a concertino for two flutes, an aria with concertante instruments, a duet worked out as a prelude and fugue and a passacaglia. In such forms, the music becomes worked out in terms of absolute music; it is sober, objective and appears uninvolved, yet is precisely related to the meaning of the scene and the context of the plot.