Operetta Research Center
21 September, 2014
Because of illness, the Komische Oper Berlin had to re-cast its production of Nico Dostal’s Clivia. The original star, Tobias Bonn, playing gaucho turned South American revolutionary turned president of Boliguay was substituted because Mr. Bonn was admitted to hospital earlier this week with acute appendicitis.
Tobias Bonn, also known as Toni Pfister of the Geschwister Pfister trio, is not easy to replace, especially if the whole production by Stefan Huber is designed around his special talents – and those of the other two “Pfisters,” Ursli aka Christoph Marti playing the title role in drag and Fräulein Schneider playing a wild Amazon warrior.
But the casting department of the Komische Oper pulled off a super stunt: They got Max Hopp to play and dance (and occasionally sing) the part of the Latin Lover, Juan Damigo, and they had their young new ensemble member Johannes Dunz sing the heavy-weight solos and duets from a position amid the on-stage orchestra.
The result was electrifying, simply put.
Because the new casting gave a new excitement to this ‘old’ production that made it thrilling to watch, even if you had already seen it four times before. (As I confess I have.) Max Hopp brought a new chemistry to the love story with Clivia/Marti. And their various on-stage kisses went through me like flashes of lightning.
Johannes Dunz, on the other hand, sang the demanding solos with a silvery tenor voice that blossomed nearly as much as the artificial flowers on the stage, and he had an unaffected style that was a relief to hear after so many disastrous operetta attempts on record in recent years. Hear him here with something else, to get an idea of what he sounds and looks like.
It would be fun to see either of these two gentlemen, Hopp and Dunz, perform and sing the entire role. As much as I admire Tobias Bonn – and the Geschwister Pfister in general – it is a treat to see a wonderful show like Clivia again and again with changing casts.
If Mr. Dunz can be persuaded to continue exploring operetta, it would be a great win. Max Hopp is due to return to the Komische Oper this season to star (and sing) in Oscar Straus’s Eine Frau die weiß was sie will, together with Dagmar Manzel. The two had already appeared together in Im weißen Rössl, and though they were both excellent there, the production was so heavy handed that they were somewhat robbed of a personal triumph. Maybe that explains the surprised look on Mr. Hopp’s face when he saw what phenomenal applause you can get from a loving operetta audience when the production is not by Sebastian Baumgarten.
When Johannes Dunz came out onto the stage at the very end – after I feared they might have forgotten him altogether in the applause line-up – the Berlin audience went absolutely wild. He scored a great success, and hopefully he will use this to secure a “favorites” position for himself at the theater in Behrenstraße Berlin. He is someone to keep an eye on and it was great seeing him at the after show party where he got another ovation the second he walked into the foyer.
What also should be mentioned is that the Komische Oper greatly improved its sound system and all performers – including the divinely crazy Stefan Kurt as E.W. Potterton, the virtuosic Christoph Späth as Gustav Kasulke singing “Man muss doch ab und zu verreisen” and operetta veteran Peter Renz as Lelio Down, reporter for the Chicago Times – sounded better than before.
Which is also true for La Diva, Christoph Marti. He gave another stellar performance that brought the house down, again and again; and his interacting with Max Hopp had a new dimension worth watching, again and again.
I hope Tobias Bonn will be better again too, soon, so I can see all three of these operetta super heroes – experienced and new – as many times as possible, in as many productions as possible.
Sometimes you just have to thank the Gods above for a house such as the Komische Oper, and the new talent they have brought to the world of operetta in such a short time. Which only proves: it can be done if you try properly and search in the right place(s)!
For more information of Johannes Dunz, click here.
All images by Iko Freese are from www.drama-berlin.de (Agentur für Theaterfotos).