Solveig Steinhardt just can't get enough of Ger­man op­eretta.

Where Berlin - - CONTENTS -

An ec­cen­tric night out at the Komis­che Oper.

Of the three opera houses in Ber­lin, the Komis­che Oper is un­doubt­edly the most ec­cen­tric one: Sets made en­tirely of car­toon an­i­ma­tion, poly­glot pro­duc­tions, and casts mix­ing opera singers and cabaret stars give clas­sic pieces a whole

new twist. It all started in 2012, when Aus­tralian art di­rec­tor Barrie Kosky landed at the Komis­che Oper with a bag filled with new ex­per­i­men­tal con­cepts. Since then, the once all- Ger­man opera house has be­come more in­ter­na­tional and tech­no­log­i­cal, with elec­tronic screens dis­play­ing sur­titles in four lan­guages at ev­ery seat, a brand-new pro­gram ex­plor­ing broad hori­zons of mu­sic, and a side sched­ule filled with quirky ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing makeup work­shops on how to cre­ate a bald head, or the yearly sale of orig­i­nal stage cos­tumes, an event that keeps Ber­lin­ers in line for hours.

But fresh and fun ideas aren't the only thing Barrie Kosky brought to Ber­lin; by re­dis­cov­er­ing long-lost mu­sic scores from Ber­lin's pre-WWII era, he also re­vived an en­tire mu­si­cal genre, the Ger­man op­eretta. Banned by the Nazis for be­ing deca­dent, for­eign, and "too Jewish," the Ber­lin op­eretta com­bined cabaret, jazz, and mu­si­cal, and could be seen as a pre­de­ces­sor of the Broad­way show. One great ex­am­ple of this is Paul Abra­ham's Ball at the Savoy, per­formed for the last time in 1932 be­fore Hitler's ban. This cap­ti­vat­ing mu­si­cal blend of klezmer, gypsy mu­sic, and jazz tells the story of a newly mar­ried high-so­ci­ety cou­ple who strug­gles to re­main faith­ful amid pro­mis­cu­ous dances, farce-like plots in­volv­ing Turk­ish diplo­mats and ser­vants, and fast-mov­ing scenes, even­tu­ally end­ing with the tri­umph of love when the two get back to­gether and for­give each other's sen­ti­men­tal weak­nesses. Catch it on 8, 16, and 30 April. For more Weimar- era fla­vor, the show Heute Nacht oder nie, sched­uled for 6 and 27 April, presents a col­lec­tion of the best satir­i­cal cabaret songs by Rus­sian Jewish com­poser Mischa Spo­lian­ski, whose erotic and dar­ing shows per­fectly em­bod­ied the Ber­lin of the 1920s. Although his name never achieved the fame of some of his con­tem­po­raries, such as the cabaret com­poser Friedrich Hol­laen­der, Spo­lian­ski's op­erettas en­joyed great suc­cess in Ber­lin, some­times even star­ring Marlene Di­et­rich her­self.

A scene from Ball at The Savoy. Inset, be­low: Heute Neacht oder nie.

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