“Viktoria und ihr Husar” Coming Up in Altenburg

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
28 September, 2015

Is it just my imagination, or is there a noticeable increase in Abraham productions lately? While the Komische Oper Berlin opened its new season with Ball im Savoy (1932), packing in audiences, and while Mörbisch has announced a large-scale Viktoria (1930) for next summer, the small but attractive theater in Altenburg will also present a new Viktoria und ihr Husar on October 4. The production by Winfried Schneider – formerly of the Staatsoperette Dresden – is based on the newly “reconstructed” orchestral material edited by Henning Hagedorn & Matthias Grimminger. The whole thing is part of the series “Die goldenen 20er”, i.e. the Golden Twenties.

Poster for the movie version of Abraham's "Viktoria und ihr Husar."

Poster for the movie version of Abraham’s “Viktoria und ihr Husar.”

Of course, back in the 1920s Viktoria was a lavish exercise in cinemascope-sized kitsch and bouncy jazz rhythms. And Abraham’s score, plus the new sound effects he and his orchestrators created, hit the operetta scene like a tornado. Whether the theater in Altenburg can offer such lavishness remains to be seen. When I last visited the house to see Toi c’est moi the company offered a highly inventive and highly attractive version of this French operetta, with an equally attractive cast. Mr. Schneider’s productions in Dresden – where he worked as a choreographer for years – were not in that league, sadly. But you never know.

It will also be interesting to see whether conductor Thomas Wicklein will be able to get a grip of the massive score and recreated that “original” sound spectacle Abraham was famed for – but that is difficult to pull of without intimate knowledge of the workings of an Abraham score. (Adam Benzwi in Berlin took a year off to cut down the full score to his individual needs, creating something truly amazing in the perfect Abraham tradition. As you’ll recall: Abraham improvised in the pit and had the music always orchestrated for full orchestra, so he could pick out individual instrument groups ad libitum. If you don’t pick groups out and always play what’s in the score, as written, you have a massive, over-orchestrated sound from beginning to end.)

The press image for "Viktoria". (Photo: Landestheater Altenburg)

The press image for “Viktoria”. (Photo: Landestheater Altenburg)

The singers Abraham demanded for Viktoria – as heard on various original recordings – need to cover a wide stylistic range. When the opera house in Gießen tried Viktoria, under the musical direction of the wonderful Florian Ziemen, their house ensemble was unable to cope with the vocal needs of this type of music. Let’s hope Altenburg will fare better, and let’s hope the production will be a little more colorful and snappy than the PR pictures on the company’s website.

The production runs through till November in Altenburg, coming back for single performances in March and May 2016. Then, it will be seen at Gera for a run that starts 3 June, 2016 – nearly parallel to Mörbisch.

For performance details and the full cast list, click here.