The 26-year-old Erich Wolfgang Korngold started work on his fourth opera Das Wunder der Helianein 1923 and, as far as he was concerned, the results bettered even Die Tote Stadt, at that time one of the most popular and frequently staged of 20th-century music dramas.

Based on Die Heilige(The Saint) by a recently deceased, now completely forgotten expressionist playwright by the name of Hans Kaltneker (1895–1919), it tells of a charismatic young man (The Stranger) imprisoned by a despot (The Ruler) for preaching a doctrine of love. When the Ruler’s wife visits him in his cell to offer comfort, the Stranger asks only...

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