Barrie Kosky’s All-Singing, All-Dancing Yiddish Revue – Plus Other Farewell-Highlights

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
28 June, 2021

Of course he wasn’t going to present his last season as intendant of Komische Oper Berlin via Zoom or only online, Barrie Kosky wanted a “live” press event. And he got one. With financial director Susanne Moser by his side, he unveiled what he calls “a monster season” that offers so many farewell goodies that it’s difficult to know where to start with a list of upcoming must-sees. Instead of giving you an overview of everything, we’re going to focus on the operetta highlights here.

Barrie Kosky and Komische Oper's Financial Director, Susanne Moser (Photo: Jan Windszus Photography)

Barrie Kosky and Komische Oper’s Financial Director, Susanne Moser (Photo: Jan Windszus Photography)

Mr. Kosky’s central question was: what does one do after 10 years to take a last bow? He did not want to say goodbye with a grand opera production and he had nothing more to add to his Weimar Republic operetta series. So instead, there are revivals of his greatest hits. And because Mr. Kosky received so many emails and letters “begging” him to bring back Ball im Savoy, which started the whole operetta revolution back in 2013, that Abraham production is returning with the original cast in February 2022, for nine glorious performances. In May and June 2022 you get seven performances of Oscar Straus’ Die Perlen der Cleopatra, and before that in September 2021 three performances of Eine Frau, die weiß, was sie will. Fans of Dagmar Manzel and Adam Benzwi will want to put the dates in their calendar.

While Weinberger’s Frühlingsstürme has disappeared into Corona heaven and isn’t coming back, Offenbach’s Die schöne Helena is making a comeback with Nicole Chevalier. The Salzburg Orphée aux enfers is coming to Berlin after the Corona delay with typical Kosky actors instead of the international jet set crew you see on the festival DVD. So Kosky promises it’ll be “better than Salzburg”. Adrien Perruchon conducts, Max Hopp repeats his star-turn as one-voice-fits-all narrator. And Peter Bording is the new Jupiter who gets to rub his toy genitals against Sydney Mancasola as Eurydike. Tobias Kratzer’s ill-fates Zigeunerbaron production is given another six performances to not make it look like a total flop, Stefan Soltesz still conducts. Which is a pity.

With so many revivals you might wonder why the wonderful Clivia isn’t returning as well. But that Nico Dostal show is gone, and not coming back. Maybe because Mr. Kosky didn’t stage it.

Though the Weimar focus is officially over, there will be a new Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny with Ainārs Rubiķis trying his hand at Kurt Weill, Kosky directs an opera cast headed by Allan Clayton as Jim Mahoney. Which is a stylistically dangerous undertaking with 10 performances from October 2021 onwards. Another Kurt Weill special are the four Lonely House concerts with Katharine Mehrling, Kosky accompanies her on the piano. He’ll also play piano for the two Yiddish operetta recitals with Alma Sadé and Helene Schneiderman in September 2021 and April 2022.

And of course there’s a grand finale, but not with 1920s operetta, but music from the next era in exile: with Barrie Kosky’s All-Singing, All-Dancing Yiddish Revue he presents music from the Catskills, north of New York. There, Yiddish culture thrived (as everyone knows who has seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). Kosky describes it as “Yiddish culture meets swing,” and he wants to present this Catskill world from a Berlin perspective. Plus, with 130 people on stage!

Cover for the catalogue "New York’s Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway."

Cover for the catalogue “New York’s Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway.”

His cast is a who’s who of the past ten year: Manzel, Mehrling, Hopp, Helmut Baumann, Geschwister Pfister, Dominik Köninger, Sigalit Feig (from Kiss Me, Kate), Ruth Brauer-Kwam (who was Kalman’s Marinka) etc. etc. etc. Otto Pichler is in charge of the choreography one last time, and Adam Benzwi is the musical director. It’s a show bizz whet dream that opens in June 2022 for 13 (!) performances, closing the season in July.

Musical director and 1920s expert Adam Benzwi. (Photo: Private)

Musical director and 1920s expert Adam Benzwi. (Photo: Private)

In his presentation Mr. Kosky promised that the new leading team of Susanne Moser and Philip Bröking will continue the Christmas operetta tradition, but with a new focus. So no more Abraham and Kalman, and no more 1920s jazz pieces. Moser/Bröking will also continue with operettas as a defining element in their repertoire, but it won’t be Weimar Republic shows. What it’ll be instead will be revealed in March 2022.

While we don’t want to give away the surprise of what the new focus is going to be, there’s one last Abraham that will be shown till then: Die Blume von Hawaii has been saved from Corona and will be presented with Jörn-Felix Alt as “Joker Jim,” Johannes Dunz as Captain Harald Stone, and Alma Sadé is Laya/Suzanne Provence. Koen Schoots conducts two performances in December 2021.

Jörn-Felix Alt and the "Blume von Hawaii" team. (Photo: Jan Windszus Photography)

Jörn-Felix Alt and the “Blume von Hawaii” team. (Photo: Jan Windszus Photography)

Mr. Kosky said he’s not leaving the company with sadness or melancholia; instead he’s going with great pride. As he should, because what he’s achieved in terms of putting operetta back in the spotlight is amazing. Kosky and this choice of repertoire has also put Komische Oper back on the map as one of the most interesting companies in the world – not just in Berlin, where Kosky has managed to outshine his bigger competitors Deutsche Oper and Staatsoper Unter den Linden.

In the future, Mr. Kosky is going to stage Fledermaus and Lustige Witwe, two shows he had vowed never to do. It won’t happen in Berlin. So the operetta virus might start spreading… in a more pleasant way than the other virus of which Mr. Kosky doesn’t want to talk about anymore. Time to move on and explore new horizons!

For more information, click here.