Operetta Research Center
25 February, 2023
To give credit where it‘s due: ever since the label cpo released Joseph Beer’s 1937 operetta Polnische Hochzeit – which had to premiere in Zurich because of the Nazis and political situation in Germany and Austria – the three-act piece has returned to the repertoire in a surprising way. And Mr. Beer, the composer, has attracted a lot of new attention, as two upcoming productions demonstrate.
First, the Staatsoperette Dresden is putting on Polnische Hochzeit on 22 April, in a staging by Julia Huebner. Whether she will bring a novel feminist perspective to the piece about marriage and divorce in early 20th century catholic Poland – where such lighthearted separations after an “till death do us part” vow were unthinkable! – remains to be seen. Judith Wiemers as the dramaturg should guarantee that these aspects aren’t overlooked.
The wonderful Jörn-Felix Alt will choreograph the show, but sadly he won’t star in it himself. Instead, you’ll get Christian Grygas alternating with Bryan Rothfuss as Baron Miettek Oginsky, his daughter Jadja will be played by Steffi Lehman and Sieglinde Feldhofer alternatively. Graf Boleslav Zagorsky, the freedom fighter if the story and tenor hero, will be Daniel Pataky and Matthias Koziorowski.
Johannes Pell and Peter Christian Feigel are the alternating conductors of what is heralded as the “first production” of the piece in Germany. Previously, it was seen in Austria at the opera house in Graz (read more about it here). The CD production from Munich, conducted by Ulf Schirmer, was based on a concert performance with Nikolai Schukoff as Boleslav.
There are 13 performances till July 2023.
Meanwhile, the Theater Regensburg is honoring Joseph Beer with an operetta gala in May (three performances), conducted by John Spencer. In that gala entitled Du bist meine große Liebe (“You are my big love“) you will hear selections from Polnische Hochzeit, but also from his earlier operetta Der Prinz von Schiras, which premiered in Zurich in 1934. It has a libretto by Ludwig Herzer and is almost completely forgotten today: no recording of it is currently available.
So perhaps someone at Bayerischer Rundfunk will record the Regensburg gala? It offers Benedikt Eder, Patrizia Häusermann, Seymur Karmov, Kirsten Labonte, Calos Moreno Pelizari, Felix Rabas and Eva Zalenga as soloists. You will also get to gear selections from Beer’s late Stradella in Venedig, and two solo songs he wrote with Fritz Löhner-Beda, a representative of Doblinger Publishing told the Operetta Research Center. These songs for voice and piano have been orchestrated now, they’ll be performed will full orchestra for the first time. For more details click here.
Mr. Beer died in Nizza in 1987, his daughters Suzanne and Béatrice are busy keeping his legacy alive today. The very colorful production in Graz certainly helped to kick-start renewed interest in Beer.
By the way, Staatsoperette Dresden will offer a symposium on 17 June, 2023, devoted to Beer and the representation of Poland and other Eastern European countries in operettas. (Which included works from the former Soviet Union).
Talking of which: In May there will be concert at Staatsoperette, conducted by Christian Garbosnik, entitled Bretter, die die Welt bedeuten. It’s devoted to music from stage and screen that originated behind the Iron Curtain. You’ll get to hear pieces by Isaak Dunayevsky (described by Staatsoperette as a “Ukrainian” composer), Dimitri Shostakovitch, Natschinki, Kneifel and others. Read more about it here.
Whether Joseph Beer’s works will make a splash in the English speaking world, for example at the Ohio Light Opera festival, is still a big question mark. Polnische Hochzeit has already been translated by Lynne Ann Williams. OLO’s Steven Daigle was contacted by Doblinger, we hear, but hasn’t shown any interest sofar in Polish Wedding. Chicago Folks Operetta, on the other hand, seemed interested, but wanted to create a new translation. Sadly, that plan has not yet been successful. It remains to be seen what will happen in terms of future US-productions.