Stormy Interlude by Max Brand

When the Nazis came to power in Germany and later in Austria in the 1930s, most of the leading opera composers of that period had their careers cut short because their works were banned, and many were forced to emigrate. These included Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alexander Zemlinsky, Ernst Krenek and Kurt Weill, as well as the Austrian operetta composers Oscar Straus and Ralph Benatzky. One of the exciting things about the European opera scene in the 21st century is that the works of this lost generation of composers are finally being revived and finding their way back into the repertoire.

Advertising pillar by the Salzach River for “Stormy Interlude”

Now thanks to the Salzburg State Theatre I know of another such composer, Max Brand (1896-1980) — not to be confused with the American author Frederick Schiller Faust, who used “Max Brand” as one of his pseudonyms.

The composer Max Brand studied under Franz Schreker in the 1920s and had one very successful opera, Maschinist Hopkins, which played at 38 different opera houses between 1929 and 1932. His works were banned in Germany as soon as the Nazis came to power. When the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, Brand fled by way of Prague, Switzerland and Brazil before finally getting to the United States, where he tried with little success to continue composing.

The orchestra tuning up for “Stormy Interlude”

Stormy Interlude is a one-act opera that Brand composed in New York in 1955 to a text that he wrote himself in English. It was never staged in his lifetime, in fact the first staging ever was the one I saw in Salzburg in May 2016, conducted by Mirga Grazinyté-Tyla and directed by Amélie Niermeyer.

Part of the cast of “Stormy Interlude”

Here are some of the cast members during the applause at the end of Stormy Interlude. They are, from left to right: Elliott Carlton Hines, Frances Pappas, Jason Cox, Hannah Bradbury, Rudolf Pscheidl and Raimundas Juzuitis.

Hannah Bradbury, whom I had seen four days before as a sophisticated aristocratic woman adroitly juggling her husband and two lovers, is this time a bored teenager named Mona living with her mother (Frances Pappas) in an isolated guest house in New England. She falls for the charms of a stranger (Jason Cox) who breaks into the house, but he turns out to be a wanted criminal, the infamous “Willy the Charmer”, who is running from the law.

Program booklet

Since the opera was so short, they played it twice, once before and once after the intermission. The second time not only one man broke into the house, but half a dozen, so it could have been Mona’s nightmare or maybe her wish-fulfillment dream, however you wanted to interpret it.

In the 1960s, since his career as an opera composer wasn’t going anywhere, Max Brand turned to electronic music and teamed up with Robert Moog, the inventor of the Moog Synthesizer or Moogtonium — a brilliant invention that was a few decades ahead of its time, since what it did can now be done by any multi-media computer with the proper software. But at the time it was a sensation, as some of us older folks well remember.

My photos in this post are from 2016. I revised the text in 2024.

Next: A musical comes home.
See more posts on Salzburg, Austria.

5 thoughts on “Stormy Interlude by Max Brand”

  1. Ich bin heute zum erstem Mal auf deine Seite gekommen. Ich möchte dir zu den Themen und deine Berichte gratulieren. Ich bin Liebhaber von Opern und werde deine Seiten öfter besuchen. (Mein Tipp: besuche einmal das Festival der alten Musik in Innsbruck. Da gibt es umwerfende Operninszenierungen!)

  2. Interesting addendum to what the Nazis forbid. Was not familiar with this part, but am not surprised to read it.

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