Do you think musicals are cheesy?

Kitschy, reactionary, shallow? What festival directors say about the operetta

"Operetta is only for monarchists!"

Let's be honest: the old emperor never returns. So does the monarch's world have to celebrate a kind of resurrection over and over again in the operetta? The director of the Operettenbühne Baden, Michael Lackner, sees it not dissimilar: "In any case, there are still people who adore the past as now and are difficult to convince that the flow of time continues."

The subversive of the operetta would "unfortunately be partially negated, since the tranquility of the interpretation during the 1950s and 1960s gave the whole genre a false, sweet, sticky cloak".

The head of the Langenlois Castle Festival, Andreas Stoehr, in turn sees the genre as a victim. The monarchist is "a cliché that people like to use to put the operetta in a dingy nostalgic corner," says the man who this year with Carl Zeller Vogel dealer (from July 19) attracts the audience.

Thomas Enzinger, director of the Lehár Festival in Bad Ischl, is of the opinion, briefly, that "the audience should not be underestimated". He presented to this Paul Abrahams Flower of Hawaii (from July 14th), while Peter Edelmann, new manager in Mörbisch, with the Countess Marizalures and differentiation demands: "There is no such thing as a typical operetta audience. There are 'monarchists' as well as opera lovers and friends of the lighter muse. More and more operetta fans come from Russia, Japan and China. Over 2000 children came to our 'Children's Mariza' between eight and twelve. " It will still be a while before the operetta becomes the central location for dealing with contemporary issues. Hopefully not until the old Kaiser is back.

"Operetta is rather shallow!"

"Shallow" is, of course, an ambiguous word, and it is just as often associated with water as it is with the operetta genre. In the context of the word there are unfriendly terms such as "everyday", "undemanding", "meaningless", "levelless", "superficial" and "trivial, to name just a few. However, this does not affect our directors: Mr. Edelmann is decidedly different Opinion regarding the genre and in particular the premiere that it is currently offering on the lake stage: "The Countess Mariza is very far from being musically shallow! Every number is good, every number is different and catches the eye. It is music that lifts us up from the heaviness of the earth - this music is great, beautiful, and it is sublime! "

Enzinger, in turn, launches an assault on opera: "Operetta is as shallow as opera can be, and as high-quality as opera can be. The fundamentally beautiful thing about music: it cannot be measured or assessed," adds Lackner : "Many an opera composer would have been happy to have had such ingenious melodic ideas as Strauss, Suppé, Lehár, Kálmán or Leo Fall, to name just a few."

Right. Brahms was a fan of Strauss. And so is Stoer. In his apology, he tried Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who said: "The depth has to be hidden under the surface." With good operettas "this is the case." Everything very convincing. But sometimes nothing waits beneath the surface.

"After all, operettas are no longer being written!"

This accusation is denied in a differentiated manner - Stoer, for example, dares to take a historical look: "Operetta was always commissioned art! Many authors were Jewish. When the operetta" emigrated "from Vienna to Berlin and the USA, it was precisely in Austria for this Genre got very cold ... "Today the answer" would be embarrassing for those houses and theaters that were supposed to award such commissions. For three years I have had a musical biography about the life and music of Hermann Leopoldi in my drawer here an operetta, humorous, but also a mirror of Austrian history from 1918 to after the Second World War. " So far there have only been rejections.

"Operettas are still being written," says Edelmann. "Among others from Guido Mancusi, our conductor. I received a few offers. But of course the musical has partly taken the place of the operetta!"

Lackner also believes that musicals can be classified as "modern operettas. But there are also repeated attempts to write 'real' operettas, such as South sea tulips in Chemnitz. "Interesting Enzinger's approach:" Art is always developing. Perhaps we should just get rid of the terms. "That would mean: There are new operettas, but they are entertaining in a different form today.

"Operetta is pure kitsch!"

More can be grouped around this accusation: Operetta, because it is so kitschy, serves stereotypes that it is lying. Brutally thought further, it could be said that operettas offend the intelligence, but you don't have to go that far. Thomas Enzinger doesn't either. Operetta is "just as kitschy as life can be". In addition, according to Stoer, "kitsch as a stylistic device that unmaskers can also be funny". This is a thesis entirely in the spirit of Lackner, who thinks that "it depends on how you stage an operetta". Edelmann, on the other hand, simply doesn't find anything wrong with kitsch: "I find good kitsch tasteful when it goes with the piece.

Andreas Stoer sees the kitsch accusation as a "cliché that is gladly used to put the operetta in a dingy nostalgic corner. The subversive, for example, would be understood if one dared to show it. Since the lovers of the operetta, made in Austria 'make themselves comfortable behind pleasant melodies and beautiful appearances, the irony of the genre is seen as an attack on the audience and is faded out in most productions. The bat but is about the attempt to break out of a stubborn bourgeoisie! "

OK. But one thing is clear: Operetta must not only be enjoyable if you give up your brains in the cloakroom.

"Operetta is reactionary, even extremely conservative!"

A look at the synonym dictionary under "stock conservative" reveals "old-fashioned", "traditional" as well as "anti-progressive" and "having a right list". These are huge accusations that Enzinger seeks to refute with an invitation: "An annexed state that is fighting for freedom, a world power that pursues politics with threats, emigration, racial discrimination, the search for meaning - welcome to the Flower of Hawaii in Bad Ischl! "

Edelmann is of course also happy to welcome people to Mörbisch, where he offers "love, jealousy, confusion, pointed humor, fun and joie de vivre". These attributes are not conservative. And anyway: "Many operettas by Johann Strauss - not to mention Offenbach - are much more open than today's times would ever allow!" According to Lackner, "the post-war years had unjustly brought the genre into disrepute due to an undesirable development. Operetta is revolutionary in its very own form."

Ultimately, the accusation of being a reactionary could "also be cast over other forms of theater in the past," added Stoehr. "No, operetta is a special form of music theater, the essence and significance of which is to eliminate social contradictions."

So what! Just have the courage to carry it over to today! Then everything will be fine in the end - as is the custom in operettas! (Ljubiša Tošić, July 13, 2018)