»What Price Confidence?« or in Ernst Krenek's own translation »Vertrauenssache« is a chamber opera in nine scenes for which the composer also wrote the libretto. The short comedy of manners is set in London in the early 20th century. Its romantic and ...
»What Price Confidence?« or in Ernst Krenek's own translation »Vertrauenssache« is a chamber opera in nine scenes for which the composer also wrote the libretto. The short comedy of manners is set in London in the early 20th century. Its romantic and sentimental hero Edwin is sort of a successor to the character of Max from Krenek's success of the century »Jonny spielt auf«. Simultaneously the work is committed to Herman Melville, particularly his social satire »Maskeraden oder Vertrauen gegen Vertrauen«. Clearly, Ernst Krenek had taken to this American classic, since the next two operas he wrote, »Dark Water« and »The Bell Tower« are also based on stories by Melville.
Krenek composed »Vertrauenssache« during the winter of 1944/45 in St. Paul/USA. It was his second attempt to write a specifically »American« opera. The Metropolitan Opera had desired a play to be easily staged on a tour, which explains the chamber cast with only four singers and one piano. But then the singers did not have sufficient time to present the work in the quality hoped for and required, and »What Price Confidence?« was not performed for the first time until 1960. However, Krenek was so convinced of the quality of his chamber opera that he decided to have it published by Bärenreiter-Verlag. Thus it was spared the fate of so many other works by Krenek which were lost in the whirlpool of the 20th century.
The wit of the play is the confrontation of different views of life with Krenek, just like Mozart in »Così fan tutte«, abstaining from any moral comment. Gloria reproaches her husband for his distrustful character and lack of confidence. Whereupon Edwin promises to place his confidence in the next person he meets - a sort of test of destiny. Richard on the other hand suffers from the lack of jealousy his wife Vivian displays. She only says: »I have complete trust - in myself. How else should I trust you otherwise?« But later she has doubts and decides to find out in a life-or-death experiment if she can induce such self-confidence in another person as well. What will be, will be. The four protagonists meet their counterparts from the other couple and after a tumultuous plot including gambling debts and jewels, bad cheques and suicides not committed, the couples come a bitter insight in the end: »Nothing is as dear as trust.« – »Yes, of course. But who pays the price?«