Lehár’s “Giuditta” As A Mash-Up With Ödön von Horváth’s “Sladek, Or: The Black Army”

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
13 December, 2021

The premiere of the new production of Lehár’s last operetta Giuditta is coming up at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich. It’s a staging by Christoph Marthaler with Titus Engel conducting and sets by Anna Viebrock. Daniel Behle tackles the role of Octavio, created by Richard Tauber in 1934. The production will be streamed on 26 January 2022, starting at 7 pm.

Franz Lehár with his star tenor Richard Tauber who premiered all of Lehár's last operettas.

Franz Lehár with his star tenor Richard Tauber who premiered all of Lehár’s last operettas.

The company has a new podcast entitled “How to Oper” in which Linda Becker and Kathi Roeb (whoever they might be) talk about Giuditta. They do so in such an off-hand way, singing “Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiß” under the shower and letting a lot of very labored street talk slip in, that you wonder who this is for. But they also tell the audience that the new Giuditta is a strongly re-written version of the show.

The director himself already outlined that Giuditta is a “wonderfully swaying” art work, fluctuating between grand opera moments, “Schlager” with piano accompaniment and much more. Marthaler wants to make it “even more swaying” by inserting further “unexpected musical contrasts”. What exactly these contrasts might be remains to be seen. Since the copyright for Lehár has recently expired, any Regisseur can do as he or she likes.

Meanwhile, Linda and Kathi let us know that the set design sways between “a hipster hang-out” and “a Wes Anderson movie”. And that the final scene – with the tenor at the piano reminiscing about his life – is inspired by the ending of La La Land in the new production.

New elements are added in the form of an additional story line. The “addition” is based on Ödön von Horváth’s 1928 play Sladek oder: Die schwarze Armee.

It’s about members of a secret army that prepares the Nazi take-over. Apparently, in the new version Octavio is also part of such a right-wing militia, just like Sladek. And while in Horváth’s play Sladek’s mother and lover are killed by his comrades, for fear the two ladies could betray the secret army, in Giuditta the person-to-kill is… Giuditta, of course (sung by Vida Miknevičiūtė).

So the tragic ending conceived by Paul Knepler and Fritz Löhner-Beda might get another tragic layer before the final curtain falls in Munich.

If you planned to go see the show, the current Corona restrictions make it very difficult to get tickets. A free live stream might be a useful alternative.

A present-day militia in action. (Photo: Valery Tenevoy / Unsplash)

A present-day militia in action. (Photo: Valery Tenevoy / Unsplash)

Should you miss that stream, the French-German TV station arte will broadcast the filmed performance in March 2022.

For more information on cast and performance dates, click here.

There is one comment


    At the beginning of the above article you can read ” a strongly re-written version of the show.”, so I stopped reading – I will never accept these adaptations that more than often are horrible versions, destroying the wonderful original story & music. In Germany and Austria (Salzburg in primo piano) there are too many assassins of the Art! Hélas, also here in Italy and un po’ dappertutto…. Am I old fashioned? Yes? Well, I like to be like that.