Post-Corona Operetta In Berlin. Or: Here’s Barrie Kosky’s Chancelled “Orpheus In The Underworld”

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
10 August, 2020

Has the long waiting finally come to an end, is post-Corona operetta back? After the somewhat problematic “Jewish and Gay” version of Die blaue Mazur in Baden bei Wien (Austria), there’s a triple treat awaiting in Berlin: a re-encounter with Im weißen Rössl and Frau Luna, a Bettler*ette, and Offenbach’s Orpheus in der Unterwelt, which was supposed to have transferred from the Salzburg Festival to Komische Oper in June but then didn’t.

The poster for tutti d*amore's production of "Bettler*ette - ohne Kohle, keine Kunst." (Photo: tutti d*amore)

The poster for tutti d*amore’s production of “Bettler*ette – ohne Kohle, keine Kunst.” (Photo: tutti d*amore)

According to the press release of the Berlin based musical theater collective “tutti d*amore” their March 2020 performances of Offenbach’s cannibalistic Vent-du-soir ou l’horrible festin (1857)as Häuptling Abendwind oder das gräuliche Festmahl at the Petersburg Art Space (Berlin-Moabit) have gone down in history books as “the last operetta performances world-wide before the lockdown.” (And what a glorious performance that was on 12 March!)

Now, the collective is back with a new production entitled Bettler*erette – ohne Kohle, keine Kunst, which sounds like a cross between Bettelstudent and Dreigroschenoper, or simply an operetta about beggars, or artists trying to survive in times of pandemic. There are two performances, on 14 August at “Kater Blau” (Berlin-Friedrichshain), another on 16 August at “Ordinär” (Berlin-Wedding).

A scene from the "Häuptling Abendwind" production by tutti d*amore. (Photo: Matthias Pfänder)

A scene from the “Häuptling Abendwind” production by tutti d*amore. (Photo: Matthias Pfänder)

While that beggars operetta will have live musicians, Tipi am Kanzleramt offers a different kind of operetta comeback to herald the re-opening of its venue in September: on a large screen outside the Tipi tent in Tiergarten they will present three of their legendary productions with Geschwister Pfister on three consecutive nights: of course they start with the famous 1994 Im weißen Rössl that put the Benatzky/Charell show back on the map and had Andreja Schneider and Tobias Bonn as the possibly best-ever Josepha Voglhuber and Leopold team, not to mention Max Raabe as Dr. Siedler and Gerd Wameling as Mr. Giesecke. That staging was filmed back, it’s been available as a DVD for years, and now it’ll return to the big screen on 28 August.

On 29 August the Pfister cabaret revue On the Run will be shown, and on 30 August the most recent staging of Paul Linke’s Frau Luna (1899) can be seen again. You’ll recall that Miss Schneider was an interstellar blast as the goddess of the moon, with Tobias Bonn as her first minister with serious relationship problems when confronted with his ex, Widow Pusebach (Christoph Marti), as she lands on the moon with a balloon from Berlin.

Andreja Schneider as the moon goddess in Paul Lincke's "Frau Luna" at the Tipi Zelt am Kanzleramt, Berlin. (Photo: Barbara Braun)

Andreja Schneider as the moon goddess in Paul Lincke’s “Frau Luna” at the Tipi Zelt am Kanzleramt, Berlin. (Photo: Barbara Braun)

Considering that there obviously is a filmed version of this Bernd Mottl staging – never shown before – we can only hope that a DVD will be made of it sometime soon, or that the local TV station rbb will broadcast it as a summer spectacle and make it available for even more people.

The three open-air screenings at Tipi are free, but you need to register at

The Tipi theater in Berlin. (Photo: Michael Haddenhorst)

The Tipi theater in Berlin. (Photo: Michael Haddenhorst)

Barrie Kosky’s Salzburg staging of Orphée aux enfers was a co-production with Komische Oper and slated to come to Berlin in June 2020, with Max Hopp repeating his role of narrator, but with an otherwise novel cast. This did not happen, however the original festival staging with Enrique Mazzola and international stars such as Jeol Prieto (Orpheus), Kathryn Lewek (Eurydice) and Marcel Beekman (Aristée/Pluton) has just been released on DVD by Unitel. The New York Times called it “a frantic and fabulous show,” for better and for worse. It has Max Hopp narrating and imitating all voices in the dialogue sections in German, and it has the all the singers doing their “thing” in French in the vocal sections. With a lot of screeching in between, with Otto Pichler’s dancers and choreography, and with Mr. Kosky turning Offenbach into an exuberant Muppet Show that falls a bit flat on its face because opera singers are not Kermit and Miss Piggy and lack the muppet’s unique charm and acting abilities.

It’s still a fascinating production that marked the 200th birthday of Offenbach in 2019 and now substitutes for the cancelled Berlin performances. It’s also a reminder that the Kosky operetta magic doesn’t automatically rise up like a phoenix when he’s not teamed up with congenial partners such as Adam Benzwi as musical director or actors like Dagmar Manzel or Katharine Mehrling to channel his overflowing ideas into great art. None of these names would have been involved in the Berlin production, instead Jennifer Larmore was supposed to have been the new Opinion publique, with Adrien Perruchon conducting. Ah well … try the DVD and see for yourself what you make of it (and dream of Miss Manzel as a very different kind of Public Opinion.

And whether Offenbach’s needs the “total beauty” treatment the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra offers, instead of a down and dirty reading that might match Mr. Pichler’s dancers in skin colored body condoms, would also be worth discussing further.