The world première of Othmar Schoeck’s opera Das Schloss Dürande took place at the Berlin State Opera on 1 April 1943. Hermann Goering declared it to be “bullshit” and ensured that it disappeared from the programme after four performances. Goering’s verdict was prompted primarily by his having read its libretto by Hermann Burte – but perhaps also by having learnt of the explosive end to the ancient régime at the close of the opera, which was already being interpreted by certain contemporaries as a portent of the Third Reich’s own fate. Even today, Hermann Burte’s libretto is agreed by commentators to be the opera’s real weak point. This symposium, organised by Thomas Gartmann and Chris Walton, will endeavour to determine whether it is possible to “decontaminate” a work whose text and context are redolent of National Socialism, and thereby free it to enter the discourse again, even to take its place on the operatic stage. This symposium is part of a research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and run by the Bern University of the Arts.
The topic here is not just Schoeck’s opera Das Schloss Dürande, but its historical and musical context. In lectures, workshops and concerts, this symposium will investigate composers who suffered under cultural dictatorship and opposed it, alongside others who were opportunists, hangers-on or even advocates of it. The symposium will discuss the context and conditions of Dürande’s performances in Berlin and Zurich in 1943, it will ask questions of guilt and innocence in art and culture, and question the consequences of Schoeck’s declaration that “as a Swiss, I’m neutral”. The results of the symposium will be published afterwards.