Springtime for Fritzi: A New Play About Massary with Daniela Ziegler

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
14 March, 2023

While the world is still waiting for a full-scale bio pic about the life of Fritzi Massary (1882-1969), the Theater Brandenburg presents a new play that examines the singular career of the one-and-only operetta diva. It is called Fritzi und Max: Eine Fritzi-Massary-Revue mit Schauspiel und Gesang, and it stars Daniela Ziegler.

First cast meeting in Brandenburg for "Fritzi und Max" with Daniela Ziegler and Andreas Gergen (middle). (Photo: Facebook / Daniela Ziegler)

First cast meeting in Brandenburg for “Fritzi und Max” with Daniela Ziegler and Andreas Gergen (middle). (Photo: Facebook / Daniela Ziegler)

As far as the plot is concerned, we read on the homepage of Theater Brandenburg: “It’s the year 1963, and the great Fritzi Massary gives an interview in her house in Beverly Hills. Her turbulent life is the topic of the conversation, from her early days at the Wiener Prater in 1900 to her greatest triumph in 1932 with Eine Frau, die weiß, was sie will, by Oscar Straus. But this triumph also marks the greatest turning point in her career: insulted by the National Socialists she flees from the Metropol Theater and emigrates with her husband, Max Pallenberg, first to Vienna, then to London, eventually to the United States.”

Fritzi Massary in 1905 in Vienna. (Photo: Rudolf Krziwanek / Theatermuseum Wien)

Fritzi Massary in 1905 in Vienna. (Photo: Rudolf Krziwanek / Theatermuseum Wien)

Fritzi und Max doesn’t just recall the glory days of the Viennese and Berlin operetta scene, we learn, “but also takes us on a journey into the soul of this unique artist who always gave her all, on stage and in life.” Her husband Max Pallenberg (1877-1934) was a theater star and celebrated comedian who worked with people such as Max Reinhardt. He’s also Massary’s most important partner: “he was her collective, and her haven of peace.”

In the course of the performance we get to know other people too who were important in Massary’s life. And there is music by Straus, Gustav Pick, Artur Guttmann, Ralph Benatzky and many others.

Miss Ziegler will play “Die Massary”, i.e. the elderly woman giving the interview in Beverly Hills in the 1960s, while Prisca Buchholtz is the younger version of the diva. Marcus Ganser plays Max Pallenberg, and there’s Christoph Wieschke as “The Voice of the Journalist”, Kristina Pernat Ščančar accompanies the performance on the piano.

The staging is by Andreas Gergen, a rather well-known stage director for musicals (who gave us I Am From Austria, among other things). The text was put together by Elfi Schweiger.

Since there are so many prestigious names involved in this production, it may be assumed that the performances in Brandenburg are something like a try-out, before Fritzi und Max is presented elsewhere and sent on tour.

And who knows, perhaps the UFA Fiction people, responsible for various large scale TV and movie productions, will finally take note of this story and bring TV star Daniela Ziegler to the big (or small) screen as Massary. It’s kind of overdue.

The staging in Brandenburg is part of the “Operettenfrühling an der Havel” program.

For an interview with Massary’s English language biographer, click here. For more information and performance dates in Brandenburg, click here.