Felix Weingartner: Malawika

“To be modern means to admit that in a short time one will no longer be modern.” – This saying comes from the text Modernity, published in 1918, whose author Felix Weingartner spoke out against a linear development of music history that was constantly outdone by new forms and modes of expression. Thus, in his notes on his life, he sometimes self-deprecatingly referred to himself as a “Wagnerian” and a “Lisztian” and at another point proclaimed the paradoxical thrust “forward to Mozart!”. Weingartner, whose death anniversary was on May 7, 2022, the 80th time, completed 10 operas, 7 symphonies, several songs and chamber music and participated with numerous books and essays in the music-aesthetic as well as theoretical and performance-practical discourse of his time. His success was based on his activity as a conductor. In his letters to his “dearest friend,” as he usually addressed Weingartner, Gustav Mahler did not hold back with praise: “I know of no one to whom I would hand over my work with such confidence and joyful courage as to you.” Weingartner succeeded Mahler as opera director of the Vienna Court Opera, having previously been Kapellmeister of several opera houses as well as chief conductor of the Munich Kaim Orchestra – today’s Munich Philharmonic. During his 19-year association with the Vienna Philharmonic, Weingartner made a decisive contribution to its worldwide fame. As a subscription conductor, he led all concerts, including the first Beethoven cycle in 1918 and the first South American tour in the orchestra’s history in 1922. His opera Malawika, a “Comedy in Three Acts,” premiered at the Munich National Theatre on June 3, 1886, when the composer was just 23 years old. He wrote the libretto himself, based on a drama by the Indian poet Kalidasa.

Photo Credit: Archiv Bayerische Staatsoper