"Die tote Stadt (The Dead City)" Hagen by Nemorino

Hagen Travel Guide: 7 reviews and 20 photos

Hagen Theater on a cold, grey day

The opera Die tote Stadt (The Dead City) by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) happened to be playing on a very grey, rainy and unseasonably cold weekend in May in the dead-looking city of Hagen, at the edge of Germany's Ruhr District.

Hagen has over two hundred thousand inhabitants, but hardly any of them were out walking around in this kind of weather. (Actually it's a nice enough town when the sun comes out. I was here once before, forty-five years ago on a bicycle trip, and it was fine that time.)

Korngold's opera takes place not in Hagen but in the Belgian city of Brugge, which is known as Brügge in German and Bruges in French. The opera is based on the novel Bruges-la-Morte by Georges Rodenbach (1855-1898).

Korngold was only twenty-three when he completed this opera in 1920. It had two simultaneous world-premieres in Hamburg and Cologne, and went on to be one of the most successful and often-performed operas in Germany and Austria in the 1920s.

In later years, especially after he was forced to emigrate to escape from the Nazis, Korngold became one of Hollywood's first elite composers of film music. He was awarded two Oscars for his film scores in 1936 and 1938.

For more on Korngold and some of his contemporaries, please see my tip/review called The lost generation of opera composers on my Zürich page.

In the Hagen production, Korngold's opera was staged in the style of Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo from the year 1957 (which happens to be the year of Korngold's death), with soprano Dagmar Hesse made up to look very much like the actress Kim Novak from the film.

This has been done before, I'm told, but it was new to me, and I thought it worked remarkably well. Both the film and the opera have to do with a man obsessed with the memory of a long-dead woman, and in both he finds another woman who looks exactly the same...

  • Last visit to Hagen: May 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (6)

Comments (35)

  • Oleg_D.'s Profile Photo
    Oct 20, 2015 at 11:41 PM

    Are there any objects of medieval cultural heritage?

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Oct 20, 2015 at 11:59 PM

      No, I don't think so. Hagen developed mainly as an industrial city and was heavily bombed during the Second World War.

    • Oleg_D.'s Profile Photo
      Oct 21, 2015 at 12:03 AM

      Thank for that info.

  • Chinggis_n_Borte's Profile Photo
    Jul 19, 2015 at 4:15 PM

    Nice page!

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Mar 23, 2014 at 5:53 AM

    It really looks deserted in Hagen! In May one wants to have better weather than you had when you visited Hagen.

  • alancollins's Profile Photo
    Sep 11, 2013 at 5:37 AM

    That dining car on the ICE looks good and I have yet to try out a journey on one.

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Sep 12, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      Yes, give it a try. Here in Germany we all complain about the train service because it is no longer as good as it used to be (they've been neglecting maintainance, as in the UK), but it's still the best way to get around.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Aug 26, 2013 at 5:32 AM

    I really like the Train you took - Looks so comfortable!

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    Jun 18, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    One day I may be an expert on European Opera because of you. Thanks for the tour!

  • Jefie's Profile Photo
    Jan 19, 2011 at 8:11 AM

    Nice little page on Hagen and Korngold's opera - I saw "Vertigo" for the first time just a couple months ago, I'd be curious to see how the style can be adapted to an opera. Thanks for sharing!

  • MD2nd's Profile Photo
    Jan 12, 2011 at 3:22 AM

    Wonderful tip on Hagen's small municipal theater! Beautiful are its Jugendstil statues, which represent the four muses (on the theater's facade)!

  • Zvrlj's Profile Photo
    Dec 18, 2009 at 11:16 PM

    It was Milly Steger who I have learnt about from your Hagen page :-) One more great opera tip... BTW, starting from today we can travel to EU without visas. You can not imagine how good is that for us :-)

  • hopang's Profile Photo
    Dec 11, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    Guess Theater Hagen was your favourite place in Hagen. Thanks for visiting our Norway travel page and thanks for your comments. ~ho & pang


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