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Opera by Franz Schreker
Schreker 1912.jpg
The composer in 1912
Translation Flames
Librettist Dora Leen
Language German
Premiere 2 June 1985 (1985-06-02) (chamber version)
Pianopianissimo Musiktheater, Munich

Flammen (Flames) is a one-act opera by Franz Schreker, on a libretto by Dora Leen, pseudonym of Dora Pollak (b. 23 October 1880, d. Auschwitz c.1942).

Composition history[edit]

Dora Pollak's father, the well-known Viennese doctor Siegmund Pollak, was personal physician to Ferdinand von Saar, an important Austrian literary figure and also Schreker's friend and mentor in Vienna. It was von Saar who arranged the meeting between the librettist and the composer. Schreker started the composition after August 1901 and completed the opera (his first) before April 1902.[1]

Performance history[edit]

The opera was first given in a concert performance, with piano accompaniment only, on 24 April 1902 at the Bösendorfer Saal in Vienna.[2] Schreker had copies of the libretto and vocal score printed to try to promote the work but it met with little interest from the conductors and opera houses he sent it to.[3] The full score was never published. However, Schreker did have two individual numbers from the opera published by Universal Edition in Vienna in 1922: Gebet der Agnes (Agnes' prayer)[4] (from Scene 11) and Gesang der Irmgard (Irmgard's song)[5] (from Scene 17): both are scored for soprano and orchestra.

On 2 June 1985 the opera's first staged performance took place at the Pianopianissimo Musiktheater in Munich, with accompaniment by an instrumental quintet under conductor Frank Strobel. The first fully staged performance with complete orchestral accompaniment took place at the Kiel Opera House on 17 June 2001 under director Markus Bothe. The production used orchestral material based on the autograph score prepared especially for this performance by the Franz Schreker Society in Paris. This performance featured the Kiel Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Ulrich Windfuhr.[6][7]


Role Voice type
The prince baritone
Irmgard, his wife soprano
Agnes, his sister soprano
The minstrel tenor
Margot, a dowager contralto
A knight bass


Place: the prince's castle.
Time: the end of the First Crusade.

Three years ago, when the prince left for the Holy Land on the First Crusade, he made a covenant with God. His parting words were that if Irmgard, his wife, were to fall in love with another man during his absence, her welcome kiss on his return would strike him dead. Irmgard is hurt by this lack of confidence. Every day Agnes, the prince's sister, and the dowager Margot remind Irmgard of this covenant. This leads to an inner conflict, which becomes critical when a travelling minstrel, who stays at the castle as a guest, sings of passion and love as omnipotent forces, and arouses amorous feelings in Irmgard.

A horn signal announces the imminent return of the prince, and Irmgard orders the servants to prepare a festive welcome. Agnes, who has noticed what has occurred between Irmgard and the minstrel, prays for her brother's life. Finally, Irmgard, torn between love and duty, orders the minstrel to leave.

When the crusaders, led by the prince, return, the prince tries to kiss his wife. She evades his kiss by saying that she must first drink a toast to him. She collapses (the drink is poisoned), still refusing to kiss him. She then reveals to the prince how unhappy his emotional blackmail has made her, and explains that only her suicide can now save his life, alluding to her love for the minstrel. She dies and the prince, regaining his composure, enters the castle with firm strides.


In 2001 CPO released the world premiere recording: a live recording of the 17 June 2001 performance at the Kiel Opera, with Ulrich Windfuhr conducting the Kiel Philharmonic Orchestra.[8]


  1. ^ Harders-Wutenow, Frank (2001). The stronghold of the emotions. On Franz Schreker's early opera Flammen. (CD liner). Franz Schreker. Germany: CPO. pp. 21–28. 999824-2. 
  2. ^ "Musical events 24 April 1902". Italy: AmadeusOnline. Retrieved 7 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Christopher Hailey: 'Franz Schreker: A cultural biography' (Cambridge University Press, 1993)
  4. ^ "Franz Schreker - Gebet der Agnes from the opera Flammen". Universal Edition. Retrieved 7 August 2010. 
  5. ^ "Franz Schreker - Gesang der Irmgard from the opera Flammen". Universal Edition. Retrieved 7 August 2010. 
  6. ^ Meyer, Andreas K.W. (2001). Flammen (CD liner). Franz Schreker. Germany: CPO. p. 29. 999824-2. 
  7. ^ Hillenbrand, Markus (August 2006). "Franz Schreker - Flammen". Germany: Klassika. Retrieved 7 August 2010. 
  8. ^ "Franz Schreker: Flammen (Originalfassung)". Germany: CPO. 2001. Retrieved 7 August 2010. 
  • Batta, András, Opera - Komponisten, Werke, Interpreten (Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2000, Dutch translation)