Operetta Research Center
25 June, 2018
I’ve got a book and a CD to review, plus family arriving in a few days, and a bottle of wine to drink, but… I saw a piece on the Operetta Research Center’s website about a revival of Der tapfere Soldat in Munich, and I went YESSSSSSSS! Bravo, Munich! This musical comedy should be a staple of the German-language repertoire. It is quite simply a whole lot better than [no names, I guess] certain shows which get brought out again and again in the central European theatre.
I shall digress. When I was a little laddie, my room had a whole wall of bookcase. Full of books. Mostly my father’s. Gray’s Anatomy was in HIS office, but I got Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley, Kidnapped and Catriona, and, o weh!, the complete works of G. B. Shaw. My father had done his Vienna PhD thesis on the man. So I, dutifully, read them. All. I liked Androcles and the Lion best, but Major Barbara and Man and Superman and …
Now I’m a grown-up, I know what I think of G. B. Shaw. Well, I guess I knew then. But I must say that, if his plays mostly don’t impress me, and his music criticisms are ineffably weak, he turned out, most memorably, to be a jolly good musical comedy librettist. With a little help. My Fair Lady being the most glaringly successful example.
My Fair Lady is a nice show. I’ve played in it. Five thousand Germans have played in it. Fair enough. It’s a German cliché, like Kiss Me, Kate. But the European-made Der tapfere Soldat – taken from Shaw’s Arms and the Man – is, if I may dare to say so, a better musical/operette/whatever than either of these. Yet, after its career as The Chocolate Soldier, in English-speaking countries, it simply, largely, faded away in Europe. Why?
I haven’t read the libretto in German, but surely …
However, I have heard and played and sung the score. I feel that Oscar Straus was underrated because he didn’t have the buzzword second ‘s’. For this is great stuff… ‘My Hero’ be blowed, listen to the ensemble music!
Well, nuff said. That’s my opinion. Three cheers to Gärnterplatz Theater and Bavaria.
Now, next up will you try Drei Walzer? That has music by two Strausses (with 2 ‘s’es) and by Straus (with 1 ‘s’). And a melody that has been running in my head for 30 years.
Yes, the Ohrwurm of my life! And have you seen the film … Yvonne Printemps in her remade-for-Yvonne version of the show (nobody else, I think, gets to sing).
But back to Der tapfere Soldat. I challenge German subsided theatres to put aside My Fair Lady and try this great show instead: haha, ‘by the author of My Fair Lady’.