While the Nazis marched through Brandenburg Gate with their torches, as Jewish artists were deprived of their positions and the Reichstag burned, the audience at the Admiralspalast defiantly allowed itself to be carried away night after night by spring storms to distant China: Japanese spies disguised as Chinese in the headquarters of the Russian army command, a young widow from St. Petersburg who makes the officers’ blood race, and a nauseating German reporter who tells corny jokes and attempts to ensnare the saucy, smart-mouthed daughter of the commanding general – these are the ingredients of this idiosyncratic operetta, set in the middle of the Japanese-Russian war of 1904/1905.
Although the standard pattern for roles in an operetta is retained, with a lyrical-dramatic couple and a buffo couple, the work breaks in many places with the usual forms: long acts with ballet interludes are completely absent, the chorus only sings offstage, the finales are taken on alone by the four soloists – and the leading role of General Katschalow is entirely spoken. Jaromír Weinberger’s music demonstrates mastery of both operetta’s rhythmically exhilarating sound and its dramatic aspects. The work combines orchestral representations of nature (the spring storms!), musical exoticism, and song-like melodies that meet late-romantic instrumentation – which, due to the missing original score, was specially reconstructed for the new production.