Operetta Research Center
6 April, 2023
In the past, Barrie Kosky has shunned the works of Franz Lehár. His operetta focus has been on works by Jewish authors who had been branded “degenerate” by the Nazis, works that had disappeared after 1933 and that Kosky brough back to modern times with a splash. Lehár – as the official favorite composer of the “Führer” who loved Witwe above all else, even Wagner– did not fit into that revival project. But now Kosky will direct his first Lustige Witwe, of all (unlikely) pieces, at the Opera Zurich in 2024.
In the brochure for the 2023/24 season we read, that Mr. Kosky will stage this over-popular piece – but not with his usual aides-de-camp Adam Benzwi (conductor) and Otto Pichler (choreography), also without his tested star actors Dagmar Manzel, Max Hopp and Katharine Mehrling, though they’d surely be fabulous as Hanna, Danilo and Valiencienne. (The question would be: who plays what? Hopp as Valenicienne and Mehrling as Danilo would be a treat, considering how brilliantly Mr. Hopp played Lucy in Eine Frau, die weiß, was sie will and how Miss Mehrling plays the cross-dressed Daisy in Ball im Savoy!)
Instead, the preview brochure lists Marlis Petersen as Glawari and Michael Volle as Graf Danilo, i.e. a totally traditional – some might say unoriginal – cast. (Petersen sang the role in Frankfurt previously and also recorded it, for more information click here.) Andrew Owens is scheduled to play Camille de Rossillon next to Katharina Konradi as Valencienne. Martin Winkler is Baron Mirko Zeta.
The production will be conducted by 27 year old Patrick Hahn who became the youngest music director (GMD) in the German speaking world in 2021/22 in Wuppertal. In the past he has shown an interest in jazz and the chansons of Georg Kreisler. (Always a good starting point for Viennese operetta.) The sets will be by Klaus Grünberg and costumes by Gianluca Falaschi. Instead of Otto Pichler, Kim Duddy will be in charge of the choreography, a woman who has worked with Bob Fossse and who has been associated with Cats in the past. Fabio Dietsche is the dramaturg for this Lustige Witwe.
It remains to be seen whether Kosky will highlight the “Yiddish” side of the show, as heard on the 1905 original cast recordings from Vienna with Louis Treumann and Mizzi Günther, or on the complete 1907 recording from Berlin (with all the dialogue presented in a very different kind of way than most people today would call even remotely “traditional”).
It will also be interesting to see if Kosky and Hahn will utilize elements from the recent attempt to reconstruct the famous jazz version of Lustige Witwe which Erik Charell created for Fritzi Massary in 1928. That reconstruction by Grimminger & Hagedorn was presented at the opera in Dortmund not too long ago. With somewhat mixed results.
Another interesting thought might be that Kosky quotes Harry Kupfer who famously staged Lustige Witwe before the collaps of the DDR in 1986 at Komische Oper with a new setting of the story in Nazi times, towards the end of WW2. In the finale, bombs dropped onto the stage and destroyed this whole decadent and contaminatedoperetta world.
This approach could easily be turned into a “Springtime for Hitler” moment of epic Mel Brooks proportions, a style very close to Mr. Kosky in certain ways. So let’s see what dramaturg Fabio Dietsche comes up with.
The opening night of the new Kosky production is 11 February, 2024. There are 11 further performances until 14 March, 2024.
For more information, click here.