Benatzky, Im Weißen Rößl

The Salzburg Landestheater decided to prove some sort of point by staging Im Weißen Rößl, by Ralph Benatzky and friends, as a Berlin Revue.  There is some historic justification for this, but this does not make the idea successful or even good.

The original version, performed here tonight, did indeed have its premiere in decadent Berlin in 1930, where revue dominated the style of the day.  Extra music (mostly reworked from the music elsewhere, but tonight with some pop songs added) allowed for extra dancing inserted between numbers of the plot, with dancers in various stages of undress doing rhythmic dancing (not all from the 1920s/1930s).

The conception made me feel uneasy for other reasons as well.  The program made a point that the Nazis considered this “degenerate music,” as so many Austrian Jews had been involved in putting it together.  For those who did not read the program, the dancers marched onstage at the start with a Nazi-era poster for the famous degenerate art exhibition.  While some of the characters in this work may have been Jewish, this production made a point of making them identifiably so in caricature, down to breaking a glass at a engagement reception (in a bit of confusion with the wedding practice, but what do these idiots know).  And Prof. Dr. Hinzelmann was portrayed as a caricature of Albert Einstein.  With the European left having become increasingly rabid in its anti-Semitism, where anti-Semitism is once again salonfähig, trying to hide behind nominally anti-Nazi statements is often itself code for anti-Semitism.  And, of course, it was the Austrian left which happily rehabilitated the Austrian Nazis in the 1940s and 50s.

The performance itself was further blighted by having the cast heavily miked.  There is never any reason to do this in an indoor performance, and the small Landestheater is certainly not big enough to justify it.  If the cast cannot project to fill the small hall, they picked the wrong profession.  The volume of the amplification also meant that the voices overwhelmed the music.  This was most unfortunate for Sascha Oskar Weis singing Leopold Brandmeyer, the lead male role, since his singing voice was truly awful.  Simon Schorr as Dr. Otto Siedler had by far the best voice, but they did not regulate the microphone for him, so he projected that much more than everyone else at blasting volume.  A random non-character, Renate Vaithianathan, a yodeler(!) who looked like she had crawled out of the grunge bin and had not showered for years with long matted hair, just proved annoying – who enunciates a yodel (and, yes, she did manage to enunciate her yodels) into a microphone?  The rest of the cast was completely undistinguished and not worth mentioning.

Peter Ewaldt conducted a fantastic-sounding Mozarteum Orchestra (the music is fun, and they played it with bounce).


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