Focussing On Kurt Weill And Johann Strauss: Komische Oper In 2020/21

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
23 March, 2020

So here it is: the new season at Komische Oper, presented in the midst of the Corona crisis in digital form only. The big news is: no, Dagmar Manzel will not star in a new operetta production, yes, there is a Kurt Weill focus with Silbersee as the lesser known piece on offer, Mahagonny as the more famous one, but there’s new operetta nonetheless in the form of Zigeunerbaron, Fledermaus, and Orpheus in der Unterwelt. Plus: Abraham’s Blume von Hawaii as a Christmas treat.

Barrie Kosky, artistic director of the Komische Oper Berlin. (Photo: Jan Windszus Photography)

Barrie Kosky, artistic director of the Komische Oper Berlin. (Photo: Jan Windszus Photography)

And before you ask: Dagmar Manzel will appear next season in her two Oscar Straus blockbusters Perlen der Cleopatra and Eine Frau, die weiß, was sie will. And Geschwister Pfister return, bringing their recent Die Rache der Fledermaus from Switzerland to the German capital for a “different” take on Johann Strauss.

I truly wish the new Zigeunerbaron, opening on 30 January, 2021, had something a little more “different” to offer than Stefan Soltesz as conductor who is a representative of business-as-usual, instead of bringing operetta into the 21st century (like Adam Benzwi so convincingly does). How that will work in combination with a staging by Tobias Kratzer remains to be seen. It’s the first production of that piece at Komische Oper after the Walter Felsenstein staging 70 years ago.

In February, conductor HK Gruber comes to Berlin to present Weill’s fairy tale Der Silbersee, sadly, Mr. Gruber is not in charge of Abraham’s jazz score Die Blume von Hawaii which is given instead to another more routine musical comedy “expert”: Koen Schoots. On the plus side: Jörn-Felix Alt is part of the cast, and that’s promising. Katharina Thalbach will guide you through the exotic world created by Alfred Grünwald and Fritz Löhner-Beda as mistress of ceremonies.

Sheet music cover for Paul Abraham's "Die Blume von Hawaii," 1930. (Photo: Archive of the Operetta Research Center)

Sheet music cover for Paul Abraham’s “Die Blume von Hawaii,” 1930. (Photo: Archive of the Operetta Research Center)

The June 2021 Offenbach-premiere brings Barrie Kosky’s Salzburg Orpheus production to Berlin, with a new cast and conductor, but again as a mix of German narration (by Max Hopp) and French singing. With a mostly native German cast, though, you could ask why the brilliant German standard translation isn’t used, or the Nestroy one?

There’s no big bang, such as this season’s double Weinberger whopper (which now falls flat because of the pandemic). Dagmar Manzel in Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire could be a treat (with limited seating!), but is no substitute for Oscar Straus, Offenbach or Abraham glories. And a deconstructed Rache der Fledermaus isn’t the same as Roxy und ihr Wunderteam. (Why has that disappeared, I wonder?)

The Komische Oper in Berlin, main entrance. (Photo: Jan Windszus Photography)

The Komische Oper in Berlin, main entrance. (Photo: Jan Windszus Photography)

Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see how all of this will work on the stage, if the new season can actually start after the Corona break. Adam Benzwi was not given a new production. And creating a new Strauss buzz with two of his most famous and most played titles might prove a challenge. But if anyone is up for a challenge, it’s Mr. Kosky.

So stay tuned!

For more and detailed information on the entire season, click here.