The Death of Gustav Mahler

The Death of Gustav Mahler

Commentary: Redemption, writ large, in L.A. Opera’s divine ‘Omar’

The New York Times says: “Omar, the divine singer who is to be given a two-year contract for $30,000 a week, is to lose $400,000 — and then win back most of it.” The Times describes the opera as a “superb” production of an Italian operetta, “by the Austrian tenor, Gustav Mahler (1860–1911).”

“As the most important figure in the music of Mahler, Mr. Mahler is the artist who is now in a class by himself,” said Mr. Mahler, who recently returned to the United States after a prolonged visit of nine months in Italy. “Omar,” by the librettist, Giorgio Federico Zalone, was commissioned in 1913 by the L.A. Opera, which first staged it in 1928.

One may ask what is so special about Mahler. He composed and staged a vast number of music, but only for a few American orchestras. He was an astute businessman, and he always insisted on the utmost transparency of financial dealings. Indeed, he lived on virtually no money and had to have a staff of personal valets. In addition, he had to take a $450-a-year royalty for his compositions.

Mr. Mahler died in September 1911. Had he lived, his music would be even more famous. But his passing made little difference to the world of opera. The new “Mahler” was to turn out several successors but none with quite the success he had achieved in the first three years of his career. Still we feel the absence of a hero in our hearts.

Some of us have not entirely accepted the loss of a Mahler in our lives. It may not be possible to recreate the lost love of someone we have loved,

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