Noilly Prattle: Come to the Cabaret...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Come to the Cabaret...

...or: Am I in the wrong theater?

orchestra integrated with stage set
     What to make of the performance of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld we attended last night at the Berlin Staatsoper in the Schiller Theater? I've seen reviews that hailed this production as something of a fresh breeze blowing away the stuffiness and stodginess that this operetta has become. I don't know about all this stuffiness business, but sitting in the theater I soon noticed that the sound was a little funny. It sounded canned. We were sitting in the front row of the balcony. I noticed that there was no orchestra pit. The small orchestra was at the back of the stage. When the show started, we were close enough to notice that the singers were wearing pick up microphones on the side of their faces. That accounted for the funny sound. The singers' voices were amplified by loudspeakers on the walls of the theater...and not very well mixed. Strike One!

     This production is billed, by the Staatsoper, as “an operetta in an unusual shape - without a large orchestra, but with combo sounds and absurd wit. The absurd and witty reworking of the libretto by Thomas Pigor and arrangement for small orchestra by Israel Christoph bring the disrespect of the original work to the full extend.” This is all well and good, perhaps, if you are presenting the “reworked” operetta in a music hall or cabaret. But if, like me, you expect to hear opera in a State Opera House with the music fully intact and not a cabaret night club act full of “reworked” dialogue and comic patter that you don't understand, you might not be totally charmed by this bringing of “the disrespect of the original work to the full extend.” Question: if the original work was so disrespectful, why did it have to be reworked? Strike Two!

cast, conductor and orchestra taking their bows
                   With the shrinking of the orchestra, comes the “shrinking” of the music, especially the removal of the overture. I realize the overture was added later; still, I go to hear music not a stand up comedy act. I love stand up comedy and cabaret shows, but in their proper venues. If I go to an opera I expect to hear music, too much of which was missing from this “reworking” of Orpheus in the Underworld at the Staatsoper im Shiller. Strike Three!

    If you want disrespect, get a DVD of Liza Minnelli in the great movie Cabaret.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OY VEY…they are 'OUT'.

I hate experimental things…why mess with the good stuff. And the shrinking orchestra?? A terrible trend, indeed.