Schoenberg in Hollywood is a Chamber Opera with a libretto by Alasdair Middleton, composed for 9 singers and 9 instrumentalists.
The work concerns itself with the extraordinary clash of ideologies that occurred in Los Angeles between 1930 and 1951 as European intellectuals, fleeing to the United States, found themselves confronted by the multi-faceted populism of American culture. Arnold Schoenberg lived in Hollywood from 1934 until his death in 1951, and was on friendly terms with Chaplin, the Korngolds, Max Waxman, Bernard Hermann, Max Steiner and many other prominent figures of the period. Many of these appear fleetingly in the piece. Schoenberg was also George Gershwin’s friend and tennis partner, and a regular guest at his house.
The other important topic in Schoenberg in Hollywood is Schoenberg’s preoccupation with numerology, his fear of the number thirteen, and the singular circumstances surrounding his death on Friday, 13 July 1951, a date he had been dreading because of the concurrence of several numbers which he believed to be inauspicious.
Various voices are heard in the piece, including Schoenberg’s own, Frau Schoenberg and Frau Dieterle (Schoenberg’s friend and astrological mentor).
Schoenberg in Hollywood was commissioned by the Guildhall Vocal department and premiered in 2015 at the Milton Court Concert Hall, Barbican, with Students of Guildhall School of Music and Drama and soprano Jane Manning, conducted from the piano by the composer.