In addition to the big productions in the castle courtyard, the summer festival in Bad Vilbel also has a smaller venue in the castle cellar, in a room which seats up to one hundred people. One summer they did a “grusical” down there, entitled “Shakespeare, Murderers, Pulp and Fiction”, as well as a series of “erotic readings”.
Down in the cellar in 2003 I saw a brilliant production, starring Sabine Fischmann with pianist Markus Neumeyer, of the musical Heute Abend: Lola Blau (This Evening: Lola Blau), by the Austrian-American composer, author and cabaret artist Georg Kreisler (1922-2011).
Lola Blau in this musical is a young Jewish actress and singer who is caught totally unawares when the Nazis take over Austria in 1938. She has to flee the country, loses track of her boyfriend in the general confusion, gets a cold welcome in Switzerland, earns her passage to America by singing on shipboard for the first-class passengers and the Jewish people in steerage, and has a huge career as a singer in America (here Georg Kreisler has written a funny and satirical song in English called “Sex is a Wonderful Habit” — otherwise the show is all in German). After the war she returns to Vienna and gets reunited with her boyfriend, who has survived a concentration camp. But she can’t get roles in the theaters, despite hilarious efforts to do so, and ends up singing bitter but very funny songs in a small cabaret.
Heute Abend: Lola Blau is essentially a one-woman show (Kreisler wrote it in 1971 for his then-wife Topsy Küppers), and is a brilliant tour-de-force for any singer-actress who can pull it off.
Besides Sabine Fischmann, I have also seen Ingrid El Sigai perform it with the Kammeroper Frankfurt — both accompanied by the same pianist, Markus Neumeyer.
Now, twenty years later, Sabine Fischmann and Markus Neumeyer are still performing Heute Abend: Lola Blau, for instance four times in Frankfurt in November 2023. But their current version (which I haven’t seen yet) includes spoken-word recordings by Holocaust-survivors such as Aviva Goldschmidt and Eva Szepesi, with the intention of creating a “touching mixture of music, theater and documentation“, according to Sabine Fischmann’s website.
My photos in this post are from 2005. I revised the text in 2023.
See more posts on the composer Georg Kreisler.
Soprano Ingrid El Sigai and pianist Markus Neumeyer have both come as
featured guests (several years apart) to my German-language
opera appreciation course Opern-Gespräche.