Monday, 4 February 2013

Joined up thinking - why no Kaiser festival?

Anyone reading the National Theatre's plans for their 50th anniversary season might have noticed, besides works by Shakespeare, Marlowe and Pirandello, a play by the German expressionist playwright Georg Kaiser (1878 - 1945). Melly Still will be directing Kaiser's From Morning to Midnight in November in a new version by Dennis Kelly. Those with long memories will remember ENO's performances of David Sawyer's opera, based on the play, at the London Coliseum in 2001. The opera wasn't perfect, but it had a lot going for it (see Tom Sutcliffe's review for the Evening Standard) though was never revived.  

Kaiser himself worked on two operas with Kurt Weill (in Weill's pre-Brecht period), Der Protagonist (1926) and Der Zar lässt sich photographieren (1928), both of which have had occasional revivals. Kaiser and Weill also collaborated on Der Silbersee (1933), a rather magical parable which is more play with music than opera or operetta. Some productions of the piece have sought to jazz it up with extra Weill songs. But those with even longer memories may remember the rather moving Camden Festival production from 1987 with a cast which included Nigel Robson and Meriel Dickinson, mixing singing actors and acting singers.

So why isn't any of this featuring in the autumn schedules of other companies. Festivals like Britten100 and the South Bank's The Rest is Noise show what can be done with collaboration. So why didn't someone come up with a mini-Kaiser/Weill festival to go with the National Theatre's performances. It would seem to have a lot going for it, expressionist drama, music by Kurt Weill and music by a fine contemporary composer. Come one you lot, lets have a bit more joined up thinking, collaboration and imagination please.

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