They met by chance at a trolley car stop in New Jersey in 1926: the 23-year-old composer Vittorio Giannini and the 21-year-old poet Karl Flaster were to work together from 1927 to 1961, and immediately in 1927 they landed a veritable hit with the song ‘Tell Me, Oh Blue, Blue Sky’. Together they wrote 20 songs, 3 operas — ‘Lucedia’, ‘The Scarlett Letter’ (first performed in Hamburg in 1938) and ‘The Harvest’ (first performed in Chicago in 1961) — and the unfinished drama ‘Christus’ (1941-56).
After the success of the first five songs, Giannini and Flaster set to work on ‘Lucedia’ in New York in 1931. They rented a room and, according to Flaster, were often admonished by neighbours who complained about the noise.
The libretto is based on an old Indian legend. Lucedia, the daughter of the high priest, is one of seven virgins responsible for the sacred flame on the altar of the deity. But she falls madly in love with Evol, who sought her out because of a vision. When they are caught in flagrante delicto, the people demand their death. They are thrown into the dungeon and sent out to certain death in a defective boat on the open sea. The opera is set in the forest on the shore of a lake.
Giannini completed ‘Lucedia’ presumably in 1932. In the summer of 1933 he visited his sister Dusolina in Berlin. She had made a great career in Germany after her sensational debut with ‘Aida’ in 1927 and introduced him to Wilhelm Furtwängler, who, however, according to a contemporary press note, could not warm to Vittorio Giannini’s music – unlike Oswald Kabasta soon afterwards. In 1933, G. M. Sala translated Karl Flaster’s libretto for ‘Lucedia’ into Italian and Hans Ferdinand Redlich (1903-68) translated it into German. The premiere of ‘Lucedia’ was already scheduled for November 1933 in Frankfurt am Main, but due to an intervention by the National Socialists it was cancelled. …