Helga Benatzky: “The Dead Live Longer!”

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
6 September, 2016

To call this a strange mix of emotions would be an understatement. Yesterday, we here at the Operetta Research Center received an email from our (trusted) colleagues at the Korngold Archive in Hamburg, alerting us to an email regarding Helga Benatzky in Hamburg. It read: “Helga was liberated from her long suffering on 3 September 2016 at 1 pm. The funeral will be in the closest family circle; the family has asked to not send messages of condolences.” Needless to say, this came as quite a shock for everyone who knew Helga Benatzky. She had, at 90+, been very sick in recent years and was nearly blind, which made her house-bound much against her will, and contrary to her energetic temperament.

Helga Benatzky, as she will be remembered by many. (Photo: Private)

Helga Benatzky, as she will be remembered by many: a woman full of style, humor and great energy. (Photo: Private)

After half a day of wondering about the many things we wished we had said to Helga before she passed away, we sent a message to her daughter in Berlin expressing our sorrow over the loss and inquiring when and where the funeral will be. Even though we were not supposed to do this, according to the earlier email. The immediate answer was: “Some dead people live longer, it seems. My mother was alive and well this afternoon when I spoke with her on the phone. And she says hello!”

Obviously, we think this is wonderful news. But we wonder why anyone would send out an email reporting the death of someone so beloved by so many. A puzzlement? Modern miscommunication?

In any case, we are happy to correct yesterday’s post and say that Helga – born in China in 1924 – is among the living. And she is greatly looking forward to hearing how the new production of Axel an der Himmelstür will be received. She will not attend the first night at the Volksoper in Vienna herself, but her daughter and son-in-law will go. Remember: Axel was the Benatzky title Helga tried to promote for years, never giving up, even though noone thought it possible that such an ‘unknown’ operetta could be revived in times like these. But the times have changed, thankfully. So, against Helga’s own prognosis expressed jokingly in many conversations, she will live to witness the revival of this important Benatzky show written for Zarah Leander and Max Hansen, even though she herself has pulled out of all operetta PR activities, saying she has done enough for Benatzky throughout the years: it’s time for a new generation of Benatzky family members to carry the torch.

That might be true, but noone can carry that torch with such style and charme as Helga can. And we are glad that our conversations with Helga will continue, hopefully for a very long time. One topic will also be the new massive Weiße Rössl book edited by Nils Grosch and Carolin Stahrenberg.

The 2016 "Im weißen Rößl: Kulturgeschichtliche Perspektiven" edited by Nils Grosch and Carolin Stahrenberg.

The 2016 “Im weißen Rößl: Kulturgeschichtliche Perspektiven” edited by Nils Grosch and Carolin Stahrenberg.

We apologize for the embarrassing false news from yesterday, which are particularly embarrassing because they regard one of the key figures and founding members of the Operetta Research Center itself.

There are 2 comments

  1. John Best

    This news item relating to Helga Benatzky caught my interest.”The Flying Trapeze” was staged at the Alhambra, London in May 1935.Ralph Benatzky (Helga’s father?) and Mabel Wayne composed the music.
    Only fragments of the score ever seem to have been recorded, once on a 12″ 78 by Jack Buchanan, Bruce Carfax and an orchestra conducted by Harry Perritt. A short piano selection was also recorded by Patricia Rossborough at the same time.
    Does anyone know which of the quite tuneful pieces that appeared in the show were written by each of these composers? And have any of them been sung and recorded in their entirety? If not, it is high time that they were.

  2. kevin

    Ralph Benatzky was the uncle of Helga Benatzky’s husband; they all met after WW2 when benatzky returned from the USA. Thank you for pointing towards the Jack Buchanan recording; which I am unfamiliar with. As far as I know the music for “The Flying Trapeze” has never been released on any German label. Which is, indeed, a pity.