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Barrie Kosky – following La belle Hélène at the Komische Oper Berlin in 2014 and the highly acclaimed production of Orpheus in the Underworld at the 2019 Salzburg Festival – tackles yet another hit by the masterful craftsman Jacques Offenbach. Kosky sparks off an amusing play on gender roles and double-dealing etiquette centered on the resolute Grand Duchess.
Offenbach’s 1867 operetta premiered in Paris during the second International Exposition. The lead part was written for Hortense Schneider, a forceful and outspoken anti-diva who captivated the audiences of her time and who had become famous through her role as belle Hélène. For the current production, Tom Erik Lie and Philipp Meierhöfer – a duo of thoroughbred comedians with audacious wit – will alternatingly take on the grand ducal role. With a virtuosic ensemble of eight singers and two dancers in a double line-up, Barrie Kosky lights off Offenbach’s satirical firework display about political intrigues, favoritism and militarism.
In order to keep the Grand Duchess from getting stupid ideas, her subordinates Baron Puck and General Bumm try to keep her busy. For example, with plans for a grand ducal wedding. Or with a petty war against a neighboring country. But she still gets stupid ideas. Her fiancé, Prince Paul, is too boring for her. She takes an interest in the common solider Fritz and simply promotes him to General. Paul, Puck and Bumm are incensed and want to do away with their rival. Fritz, on the other hand, is in love with the peasant girl Wanda and for that reason the Grand Duchess – despite Fritz’s triumphantly winning a battle without any losses – demotes him again about as quickly as she’d promoted him. And worse yet: The Grand Duchess’s wounded pride leads her to join the conspiracy against the unsuspecting Fritz…
Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy New German version by Stefan A. Troßbach