Salamander – An “Undine”- novel.

Jürgen Lodemann is probably even more a fan of Albert Lortzing than I am. In 1962 he wrote his dissertation “Deutsche Bürgerlichkeit. Lortzing und seine Spielopern” on Lortzings Spielopern. In 2001, a Lortzing memorial year, he published “Lortzing, Gaukler und Musiker”, and last year he published his novel “Salamander – a novel”

It is not just a novel. Superficially read, it is a detective, about a crime passionel. If you are shallow enough to keep it at that level, you might still have many enjoyable hours of reading, but of course you deprive yourself of the satisfaction of a more deeper understanding (and you deprive the author of his well-earned respect as well). There is a second level – it is a love story of the German city Freiburg and of Baden, one of the sixteen states of Germany. Freiburg is beautifully depicted and I wish my next vacation could have Freiburg as a destination.
But there is even more; Lortzing’s opera’s Undine and Regina are involved in the story-line. Not only because the female protagonist is called Undine, it also because a lot of the action in the story is centered around the rehearsals and a performance of Regina, merged with some information on the opera Undine. This is the third level of the novel: unravelling the “who dunnit”, you stumble on lots of informaton, not only about Lortzing’s opera’s, but also on Goethe, culture, literature, politics and the culture of Islam. Did I forget something? Definitely, but it is just to show the inexhaustible richness of the novel when it comes to these ideas.
Finally, on the fourth level, it is a book about philosophy, humanity and tolerance. Lodemann’s interpretation of how the two opera’s are compatible in the way they reflect Lortzing’s worldview is transposed to the problems of our time – which shows that Lortzing might have lived and died two hundred years ago, in an era without computers or cell phones (Lodemann writes of our own time as “Sankt Digitalien”), but that his work and his ideas are still valid. And, of course, that we misunderstand and underestimate Lortzing by thinking of him “just” as a composer of comic Spieloper.
It’s a story about freedom, but also about “Mut zur Anderswelt”. “Die Natur des Mannes als Naturkatastrophe”.

So wisse, dass in allen Elementen
es Wesen gibt, die aussehn fast wie ihr;
in Feuers Flammen spielen Salamander,
die Gnomen hausen in der Erde Tiefen,
in Äthers Blau und in den Strömen lebet
der Geister viel verbreitetes Geschlecht.

Salamander shows that Opera, Music,Art is there to create emotion – feelings and humanism. A must-read.

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