A Viennese operetta in Magdeburg

The thoroughly renovated Magdeburg Opera House is where they put on a full program of operas, operettas, musicals, ballets and concerts — everything except spoken drama, because for that they now have a separate theater building a short distance away.

Lobby of the Magdeburg Opera House

Program booklet from the Magdeburg Opera

In 2005 I happened to be in Magdeburg for their premiere of the operetta Wiener Blut, by Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899). Since Magdeburg is in north-eastern Germany (667 kilometers from Vienna) and used to be a Prussian garrison city, which is just about the opposite of anything Viennese, I thought this would be an unlikely place to do a Viennese operetta, but it turned out to be a fine performance, with lots of verve and even quite funny since they had pepped up the text a bit.

Evidently most people in the audience had seen annual live telecasts of the Viennese Opera Ball, because there was lots of laughter and applause when the curtain went up after the intermission to reveal some Magdeburg ballet dancers doing a good imitation of their Viennese counterparts in a stage set that was painted to look just like the Vienna State Opera House as seen every February on television.

Greiz

All you loyal readers of my 21st century Greiz post might recall that the quiet German town of Greiz was immortalized, so to speak, by the operetta Wiener Blut. Two of the main (silliest) characters are the ambassador and prime minister, respectively, of the duchy of “Reuß-Schleiz-Greiz”, and the plot has to do mainly with these two clods making fools of themselves in sophisticated Vienna. At the end the ambassador’s wife and mistress join forces to teach him a lesson, and they all (presumably) live happily ever after.

Seating in the Magdeburg Opera House

I’ve been saying that Wiener Blut was “by” Johann Strauss Jr., but that is only partly true since this is a Pasticcio-Operetta, meaning that the 73-year-old Strauss didn’t feel up to writing a whole new operetta, but he did give someone else permission to compile one from some of the waltzes and other music that he had written decades before.

Café Rossini in the Magdeburg Opera House

My photos in this post are from 2004 and 2005. I revised the text in 2018.

See also: Opera Houses in Germany.

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