I was going to four operettas [three German ones and one American one
that was a rewrite of a German one] that the
Light Opera Company was presenting: one operetta you see over and over
again [Fledermaus]; two which are never
performed in the US [Im
Weißen Rößl and The Soldier's Promise / Der gute Kamerad] and one that
probably hasn't been done professionally since WWII [May Time].
All the shows were in the Freedlander Theater on the Wooster College
campus. The theater holds about 400 on one level; the decorations aren't
ornate or traditional but the atmosphere of the house is warm. There are
good acoustics [no miking for these performances] and I was sitting at
many different locations throughout the theater from front to back from
left to right. If I go back though, I'd try to get seats around Row G,
since back in the last three rows you can't see the expressions on the
singers' faces. Very often, though, the
auditorium was on verge of being too warm.
The orchestra pit rises for playing the overtures and then descends for
the actual performance. [When the pit is up, the musicians - around 30 in
number - are in formal dress; but when you look down into the pit after
it's descended, they've stripped down to white shirts].
The performers are mainly graduate music students in their late 20s. The
singing was always good, sometimes outstanding. I did wish, however, that the male leads had fuller richer voices. They tend to be adequate
in acting and there is very little dancing, either because of the size of
the stage or maybe the performers aren't skilled in dancing. Although it
holds together only during the summer, the company is a repertory company,
so singers who are leads in one show are in supporting roles in other
shows. There are, however, a few exceptions, usually the ones with the
best voices, who only performed lead roles. For some of the more strenuous
roles like Rosalinde in Fledermaus there were two singers who alternated
The sets and production are imaginative, appropriate and first quality.
Although I disagreed at times with the period costumes that were used for
some of the shows, the costumes were also professional and slick. As is
getting to be the case on Broadway, every show got an automatic
ovations, deserved or not, but at least the curtain calls
were kept short.
In Fledermaus Rosalinde was outstanding both as an actress and a singer;
Eisenstein sang well but acted like a confused television father; Adele
wasn't the Viennese soubrette she's usually played as but was good; when
Prince Orlovsky came on, I though it was going to be a disappointment because
the Russian accent and bored demeanor were so overdone; but the actress
turned out well [the production also downplayed the lesbian frisson that
you usually see with Orlovsky/Adele/Ida; maybe it was too much for mid
America]. Since I don't know music I'm guessing, but I think the music in
probably the most difficult to play of all the shows. The overture was
done well but lacked the sparkle and pfiff that you hear on recordings
with large philharmonic orchestras.
The set for the first act, Eisenstein's house, was the best, realistic in
style with two or three large Klimt-like paintings dominating the room;
the ballroom in the second act was good but not as impressive and in the third act
the jail office and jail cells were collapsed into one scene -- and they
cut the corny Frosch comedy down drastically.
Between the matinee and evening shows I had supper at the
It's a small hotel and restaurant connected to the college and on the edge
of the campus. Because it was so hot [87 degrees - while it was 98 in
Washington] I had a large salad and a fruit
bowl for dessert.
was a pleasant setting, very good atmosphere and slick service. The
restaurant overlooks the college golf course and I was in the garden room
which had a 180 degree view. There was happy hour with a live combo
including unusual short conga drums playing outside.
The menu had a sharp break with about half the meals being basically
around $10 but the other side of the menu was almost twice as expensive
and with appetizers, such as a lavish shrimp cocktail at $8.95. It's a
lovely inn that I can recommend.
Im weißen Rößl / The White Horse Inn is more a musical comedy than an
operetta; when it first came out it was a big hit not only in Berlin and
Vienna but also in London and New York because it was presented as a
spectacle with live animals, a cast of hundreds, spectacular effects. I
don't think the show has been done in the US since the 1930s. I've seen it
once, over 40 years ago in Graz, where it was done as a normal sized show
at the opera house.
The plot is set at the White Horse Inn in the Salzkammergut in the summer
tourist season and has a triple boy gets girl plot with part of the
tension being between a Prussian vacationer from Berlin and another
vacationer from Vienna. Most people know some of the melodies
not the names of the songs such as Im
Weißen Rößl and Mein Liebeslied muß ein Walzer sein and
ganze Welt ist Himmelblau and Zuschau'n
kann i' nit and Es
muß was Wunderbares sein [von dir geliebt zu werden] .
Some aspects of the production were really odd: one of the characters
physically touched the Emperor [and of course you could ask what was Franz Josef, who
died in 1916 and whose empire ended in 1918 doing in the Salzkammergut in
1927 fixing up a commoner's romance]; everyone spoke and sang in standard English but the guest from
Berlin [but not his daughter] spoke Sergeant Schulz broken English and the
guest from Vienna spoke Arthur Schwarzenegger broken English and when each
began singing they lost the accent and lapsed into standard English.
I haven't seen the show in 40 years and only know it now from records but
it was interesting that more and more of the production in Graz came back
to me as this show unfolded. One was that the show began in Graz with a
steamer of tourists docking at the hotel, here it began with a yodeling
mail delivery; there was a big production with a cow I hadn't remembered
until I saw it again; I had forgotten about the
character Gustl, the piccolo, and the servant Johann which are non-singing
roles and so don't appear on any of the records.
Another jogged remembrance
was the entrance of Franz Josef. When he appeared on the stage in the
Graz production about half the audience stood up and stayed standing as
long as he was on the stage. I realized later it was done to honor the
At the time Franz Josef seemed a million
years in the past. But it struck me in Wooster that 2005 is 43 years from
the time I saw the show in Graz but it was only 45 years from the time of the show in Graz
back to the end of the Empire.
All the shows were sold out. The audience was 80% old couples, over 60,
over 70, even older. Since husbands die earlier, I expected to see
few men and that the couples would be two women. Instead, most of the
elderly women were with elderly men, presumably their husbands. Everybody was dressed well but the younger ones
[those under 60] tended to be very well dressed. Some of the women were
even wearing evening dresses for the night performances.
A Soldier's Promise / Der gute Kamerad is by Kalman who composed Gräfin
Mariza and Die Czardaszfürstin. This one hasn't been done in the US or in
Europe since WW1 and I had never even heard its name. About halfway
through the first act I began getting very restless and figured I would
never see it again; by the second act, however, I realized it wasn't an operetta, it
was an opera, an Italian verismo opera, that was touching and moving with
beautiful music and well performed .
It had originally been set in Austria
after the German Civil War but this production changed the time to Austria after
WW1 and the end of the Empire. A soldier is coming to his dead buddy's
estate to report his death and give the family his last letter. The
family has also lost the father and another son in the war and the
messenger gets mistaken for the dead son [it's too complicated to explain
how but the plot is actually rational and believable.]
Problems arise because the daughter begins getting sexually interested in
the returned soldier and she thinks he is her brother; the comedy aspects
of the piece also have an incest theme since a mushroom farmer is trying
to prevent his daughter from marrying his uncle ["can't you marry anyone
except one of your siblings?"; they do marry but because he is an uncle by
marriage and not by blood it is acceptable] but there are violent jars between the
main plot and this comic relief plot.
The whole second act is extremely beautiful and moving, perhaps especially
moving now because of the soldiers being killed in Iraq.
Between A Soldier's Promise and Maytime I had supper at the Old
Jaol Brewing Company in
the middle of Wooster. In spite of the bad name it was a good
restaurant. Their early bird specials [you had to move fast to get to two
shows and eat] included prime rib with salad, potato and vegetable for
Maytime is theoretically an American operetta but it's actually a re-write
of [or at least based on] a German operetta, Wie einst in Mai by
Kollo [which I've
never seen and never heard on a record]. From the program notes it looks
like Romberg wrote completely new music and moved the setting from Berlin
to New Orleans, both ante-bellum and post-bellum.
This was the third of the operettas that wasn't exactly an operetta;
although there were some comedy highlights to it [mainly the thread of a
relative who keeps marrying new wives] the show was basically serious.
Also - and I don't know if this is the original or just in this
staging - the show was done as a 19th Century melodrama which fit perfectly 19th century New
Orleans. Wealthy girl is in love with one of her father's workers,
forbidden to marry him, instead married off to a degenerate wastrel who gambles away
her fortune. There also is an epilogue set in the 1920s where the
grandchildren of the lovers meet and get married.
This relatively heavy plot
, perhaps because of the Southern
setting, kept bringing Showboat to mind. There's only one song that's
remained famous but it's one that every body knows [Sweetheart,
sweetheart, sweetheart; will you love me ever ...... ] and it worked
very well in a melodrama setting as it ended the first act which actually
became realistic and moving.
This was one of the shows which had alternate casts for the principals
since the roles were so vocally demanding. Both principals sang well but
Ottilie, the rich man's daughter, was
extremely good. There was a very
good set for the first act in front of the family mansion in New Orleans
and an all right one for the high class bordello / gambling house of the
second act. I found it interesting that, based on the plot, the Civil War
and the South's defeat had absolutely no effect on the city or the family.
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