4a 1964 ALMA, YOU HAVE NOT LIVED!
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December 11th, 1964. The day of Alma's death. Alma meets her former husband, Walter Gropius, and doesn't recognise him after many years of separation. Alma is 85, half blind as a result of her diabetes, and almost deaf.
U.S. ALMA Will you help me, young man, will you, please, help me? Can you assist me in finding my way out of this place? I want to get to Vienna, you know, but the nurse refuses to let me go. Could you perhaps take me there?
GROPIUS Vienna? Why Vienna of all places? What would you like to do there?
U.S. ALMA I want to find eternal peace near my beautiful and dearly beloved daughter Manon. She's lying there, in Grinzing cemetery in Vienna. And I'd also like to go to Mahler's grave, once I am there. They wanted to bury me there too, beside Mahler, my first husband, and then in California, near Franz, my last husband. But I've had enough of my husbands. I couldn't stand their smell when they were still alive, so just imagine what it must be like now that they're dead. No, no, I want to find my eternal peace near my beautiful and dearly beloved daughter, Manon. She's the only one of all my children who resembled me. No wonder. Two young Aryan gods found one another, and she was the fruit of that ecstasy. She's lying there, in the cemetery at Grinzing. »A la recherche du temps perdu«! I'd like to look down on the city that once lay at my feet! Werfel was always the worst when it came to stinking. No, Zemlinsky was even worse. Always unwashed, smelling like a coffee-house, half smoke, half sweat. But what a character, a great character! Undoubtedly a genius!
A nurse (Alma 1) joins them.
NURSE And Gustav Mahler?
U.S. ALMA Gustav Mahler? My first husband? You know him? He stank too. And how! You must know his name? He's become very famous in the last few years. Very famous! An American conductor, a certain Leonard Bernstein, another Jew, of course, made his music very popular.
NURSE Leonard Bernstein, the composer of West Side Story?
U.S. ALMA Yes! Yes! He made Mahler's music popular. Very popular! Very popular! They play his symphonies almost as often as they play Beethoven. It's unbelievable what a revival he is going through. You can't go to a concert these days without hearing a symphony by Gostamalah. He's become a 20th century genius. The prophet of modernism. And his reputation grows every day day, every hour. The Adagio from his Fifth Symphony was the only thing that made Visconti's »Death in Venice« reasonably bearable.
The nurse accompanies U.S. Alma until they suddenly hear music. They arrive at a room in which Gustav Mahler and Bruno Walter(Almaniac) are at the "Announcement of Marriage".
U.S. ALMA Hello! Is anybody around? - Who's there? What's all that noise ?
ALMANIAC It's music.
U.S. ALMA What?! What did you say? Can you speak up? I can't hear you! - Who are you looking for?
U.S. ALMA What nonsense , you silly little man? - Turn on the light.
ALMANIAC The light is on.
U.S. ALMA What?
NURSE The light is on!!
U.S. ALMA Don't shout. I'm not deaf! I just can't see, that's all.
ALMANIAC Maybe there's something wrong with your eyes.
U.S. ALMA With what?
NURSE With your eyes! Your eyes!
U.S. ALMA Ah! My eyes! Yes! My eyes... Of course! They used to call me »The blue-eyed siren !«
MAHLER »The blue-eyed siren «? Wait a minute...
U.S. ALMA My eyes aren't what they used to be any more. They say I've got diabetes, but that's rubbish. I can't have diabetes. That's a Jewish disease, and in spite of all those sour little Jews who clung to me all my life like flies to a pot of honey, Jewishness is still not contagious, thank God! (sings to the strains of Falling in Love Again from The Blue Angel:) »Jews flock to me like moths flock to a light, and if they get burned, it is not my fault.«
MAHLER Wait a minute! I know this!
U.S. ALMA That's a song, too, which I could have written. If I'd been allowed to
U.S. ALMA Yes?
MAHLER My God! Is that you?
The nurse (Alma 1) puts down her doctor's gown and stethoscope and leaves the room to "Dead Friends", together with the Almaniac (Bruno Walter).
U.S. ALMA Eh? What are you grumbling about there in the dark? If you want me to hear you, speak up ! My hearing was never too sharp, but in the last few years it's really become awful.
U.S. ALMA Eh?
MAHLER My God! Is that you?
U.S. ALMA Young man, you can't talk to me like that!
MAHLER Alma, my God, look at me.
U.S. ALMA I told you: I can't see anything.
MAHLER Don't you remember my voice?
U.S. ALMA Your what?
MAHLER Oh God, oh Time! The Devil's trickster. What ugly jokes you play on us, poor mortals. To see this skin which was once smoother than the finest silk, now tattered like a worn-out rag, hanging loose from that arrogant, haughty chin...
U.S. ALMA Who is the author of this nice poem, young man?
MAHLER »Young man«
- What an irony of fate! You were only 32 and I was already 52 the day I died, and now you call me a young man! Was it a joke, all the suffering, all our life, nothing but a silly joke?
U.S. ALMA Eh? What are you mumbling about ? I can hardly hear you.
MAHLER I am Gustav.
U.S. ALMA Who are you?
MAHLER Gustav! I am Gustav!
U.S. ALMA You're Gustav? What a coincidence! My first husband was called Gustav too.
MAHLER Almschili! I am Gustav, your first husband.
U.S. ALMA Gustav the first...
MAHLER Your first husband, Gustav!
U.S. ALMA Are you out of your mind?
MAHLER Alma! - Almschi! - Almschili!
U.S. ALMA Sit down. Sit down. Stop babbling, will you?! - Let me touch you. Give me your hand. I don't understand. Show me. Show me. These hands, these wonderful hands. May I examine them? These sinewy fingers, the flat tips, the prominent nails. Yes. Yes. Yes. It's him! It's him! It's him! It's him! Oh God!
MAHLER Oh Alma!
U.S. ALMA It's simply beyond belief! That smell! I'll never forget it. - Are you still avoiding perfume?
MAHLER You know I hate perfume.
U.S. ALMA But still: you smell better than when you were alive! That's a nice surprise. So long after your death! That's pretty unusual, isn't it? It's been fifty-three years since the day you died. So many things have happened in our world since then!
MAHLER So they are playing my symphonies!
U.S. ALMA More than ever.
MAHLER And the critics?
U.S. ALMA What critics?
MAHLER My critics, of course! August Beer, for instance.
U.S. ALMA August who?
MAHLER Beer. - The one who claimed that my technical abilities hindered rather than assisted me when it came to composing... That I'm staggering with virtuosity... That all that's good in my work has been borrowed from Richard Wagner and Berlioz... The famous critic, August Beer, you must remember him
U.S. ALMA Are you sure that such a person ever existed?
MAHLER Of course! He was one of my bitterest enemies!
U.S. ALMA No one remembers him any more.
MAHLER Or that other guy, what's his name
that dreadfully arrogant pig. He was feared in New York. »The drooling and emasculated simplicity of Gustav Mahler! It is not fair to take up the reader's time with a detailed description of that musical monstrosity which masquerades under the title of Mahler's Fourth Symphony. There is nothing in the design, content or execution of the work to impress the musician, except its grotesqueness. To the writer of the present review it was an hour or more of the most painful torture he has been compelled to endure.« Surely you can't have forgotten that, Alma! Remember how angry you were back then!
U.S. ALMA I was never angry in New York. I was only angry in California.
MAHLER What was the name of that guy...? Kevin I think, Kevin Rich... Or Kevin Glove. What's become of him?
U.S. ALMA I don't remember such a name.
MAHLER He was the star critic of the New York Musical Courier.
U.S. ALMA I don't think the paper exists any more either.
MAHLER Do you remember that other funny guy, the critic from the Boston Daily Advertiser, what's his name, Carlson or Elison or something, who wrote a review in the form of a satirical poem after listening to my 5th Symphony? »Great praise the big brass tubas won, and kettle-drums, I ween. Why, 'twas an ugly thing, said little Wilhelmine. Nay, that you must not say, quoth he, it is a famous symphony!» Why does one always have to tolerate being pissed on? Am I a lamp-post? - Elson, that's him! Now I remember: Louis Elson.
U.S. ALMA You are certainly the only one in the entire universe to remember that idiot. nowadays nobody cares about the whole bunch of them.
MAHLER I do. It's my life! My life!!
U.S. ALMA Forget them, and they'll be deleted from the memory of mankind!
MAHLER They tried to kill me!!
U.S. ALMA They are dead and forgotten! All your enemies turned to dust, and you are alive, Gustav. You're alive and kicking. In the last ten years your fame has grown from day to day! You have become the most famous modern composer! You have become a 20th century genius. A prophet of modernism! And your reputation grows every day, every hour. The Adagio from your 5th Symphony was the only thing that made Visconti's »Death in Venice« reasonably bearable.
MAHLER Alma, I'm so happy to hear that my music has been recognised. I'm truly delighted to have become so famous and successful. But did all this finally make you love me?
U.S. ALMA Is that all that matters to you now, fifty-three years after your death?
MAHLER Almschili, though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and I have no love, I am become a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all truth so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.
U.S. ALMA Why do you say this to me?
MAHLER Almschili, don't you know that love never faileth, and what faileth is not love? But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail. Whether there be tongues they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. - When I was a child, I spoke as child, I understood as a child, I thought like a child. But when I became a man I put away childish things: For now we see through a glass, darkly: but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.
U.S. ALMA Good God, why do you keep telling me all this?
MAHLER Alma, you have lived a whole life, you always stood in the front line, you have experienced everything that life can offer, you have been loved by the most passionate men - and all you did was let them love you. Alma, you haven't lived.
U.S. ALMA Wait a minute! Where are you going?
MAHLER I'm going to write my 10th Symphony.