Waiting For Offenbach In Times Of A New Corona Lockdown: So What Happens Now?

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
29 October, 2020

You could say it’s a bitter irony: ever since theaters in Germany re-opened after the summer, Barrie Kosky has said that his answer to Corona is not the bleak and death focused Pierrot lunaire one-woman-evening with Dagmar Manzel (which was planed long before the pandemic), instead Kosky emphasized that he wanted to counter Covid-19 with laughter – and Jacques Offenbach. To be precise: with a reduced version of Die Großherzogin von Gerolstein starring cross-dressed Tom Erik Lie and Philipp Meierhöfer in the title role, alternatively. But just after this production will open on 31 October it closes again, because of the new lockdown Angela Merkel and the Minister-Presidents of the Länder have decided upon this week.

Barrie Kosky, artistic director of the Komische Oper Berlin. (Photo: Jan Windszus Photography)

Barrie Kosky, artistic director of the Komische Oper Berlin. (Photo: Jan Windszus Photography)

The lockdown affects all theaters in Germany and starts on 2 November, it is currently scheduled to last till the end of the month. Which means that after opening night, Gerolstein will not play as originally intended on 8, 21 and 27 November, but possibly again from 7 December onwards. Whether that will really happen remains to be seen, since no one knows yet how the infection numbers will develop over the next four weeks.

All those who still want Offenbach as Mr. Kosky’s answer to Corona will have to make do with his Salzburg Festival production of Orphée aux enfers which did not come to Berlin this summer, as intended, but which is now available on DVD in the original Salzburg version with the festival cast. Even though there are many problematic aspects about that production (especially with regard to casting and conducting) it is a perfect anti-depressant in times such as these.

Whether Komische Oper will be able to stream a Gerolstein performance during the lockdown phase remains to be seen, since all theaters in Germany are fully closed for four weeks, not just for the public.

Obviously, this affects the various other new operetta productions that have recently premiered too: a jazzy new Blume von Hawaii at Theater Hagen or the new Zigeunerbaron at Theater Magdeburg, to name just two.

Penny Sofroniadou in "Die Blume von Hawaii" at Theater Hagen. (Photo: Klaus Lefebvre)

Penny Sofroniadou in “Die Blume von Hawaii” at Theater Hagen. (Photo: Klaus Lefebvre)

Talking of this particular Strauss show: Komische Oper recently announced that their new production of Zigeunerbaron, scheduled to open at the end of January 2021 in a staging by Tobias Kratzer, will happen. But that was before the new lockdown was proclaimed by the German government.

So, the only thing to do right now is enjoy the last “Ah que j’aime les militaries” on Saturday, and then maybe have Regine Crespin sing it for you on CD for the rest of the month, till Philipp Meierhöfer gets a chance to alternate with Tom Erik Lie. As a Berlin-style battle of the divas.

Tenor Maximilian Mayer. (Photo: Tom Leather)

Tenor Maximilian Mayer. (Photo: Tom Leather)

And with a little bit of luck, Gärtnerplatztheater Munich will be able to present their new Vetter aus Dingsda on 17 December as well, which is worth seeing if for no other reason than having Maximilian Mayer and Daniel Gutmann in it as an operetta double treat.

Maybe someone will take these new regulations to court before the end of November – and maybe a German judge will decide that this complete theater shutdown needs to end early. Here’s hoping!