Venue: Staatsoper Hannover
Director: Matthias Davids
Conductor: Mark Rohde
Premiere date: 15 October 2011
Remaining performances: 3, 7, 21 March; 8 April 2012
“Under the seemingly nonchalant, never obvious direction of Matthias Davids, the performers move beautifully on the set, which is sparse but cleverly jazzed up with video. . . the Staatsorchester under Mark Rohde warms up to an elegant, variegated Weill sound.”
–Manuel Brug, Die Welt
“Seeing Lady in the Dark in Hannover, one is astounded at how exactly this work fits our time (the last production was in 1983 in Freiburg!). . . . On the way to Weill’s longed-for Ur-American opera, which he achieved six years later with Street Scene, Lady in the Dark represents a daring experiment in form. And an amalgam of classical Broadway melody, the harmonies of the Berlin Weill, and the emphasis of verismo.”
–Egbert Tholl, Süddeutsche Zeitung
“The story is really super, the whole craziness of the Vogue-Mode media world, with a heavy shot of psychoanalysis and burnout on top. More contemporary it could hardly be—and yet it was written in 1941 by Kurt Weill as a real Broadway musical.”
–Henning Queren, Neue Presse
“Winnie Böwe, who is perfectly cast as Liza Elliott . . . always finds the right tone. Whether in “The Saga of Jenny” or the touching “My Ship” (that brings the evening to a happy ending), Winnie Böwe avoids operatic pathos without falling into a nightclub style.”
–Rainer Wagner, Hannover’sche Allgemeine
Longer review excerpts (in English)
More review excerpts (in German)
Preview video of the production
Learn more about Lady in the Dark
Longer Review Excerpts
“The overture comes before the second act. The first quarter of an hour at the Staatsoper Hannover consists of spoken dialogue only. There is a woman lying on the couch. A doctor is listening. And almost everything else about this 1941 musical differs from the usual model. For the lavish song and dance numbers, only three in number with a brief final song, are like mini-operas in a clever spoken play. They embody the nightmares and desires of the protagonist, sometimes glamorous, sometimes romantic, sometimes surreal, sometimes oedipal. . . .
Three of the biggest Broadway talents wrote Lady in the Dark: The book is by the successful playwright and director Moss Hart, the lyrics are by Ira Gershwin, and the music is by United States émigré Kurt Weill. With this work, he became an American. That was the opinion of the New York critics, who were actually expecting more of the proletarian Weimar Republic sound, but the audience loved the piece and flocked to the theater–for two years. On four turntables a display was accomplished that would cost roughly ten million euros today. . . .
Although it has hardly ever had the opportunity to be seen in Germany before now, today the admittedly ambitious, extravagant Lady in the Dark has become the musical of the moment. . . . Lady in the Dark is about the state of exhaustion and psychoanalysis, Freudiana and frigidity, nerves and neurosis, fashion and mental breakdowns: that is, Burnout on Broadway. . . .
Under the seemingly nonchalant, never obvious direction of Matthias Davids, the performers move beautifully on the set, which is sparse but cleverly jazzed up with video. . . the Staatsorchester under Mark Rohde warms up to an elegant, variegated Weill sound. . . . When she finally understands [the meaning of the song from her childhood, “My Ship”], Liza is even willing to throw herself around the neck of her nemesis, the macho head of advertising. And all is well in Musical Land. Hannover rejoices, and we hope this intelligent and sparkling Weill jewel will soon be seen in other productions.”
–Manuel Brug, Die Welt, 18 October 2011
“She can’t make up her mind. About the cover for the next issue of the magazine, about her family situation, about the right man to choose. The reasons for this mental block are unclear. For that reason, the Lady in the Dark lies on the psychiatrist’s couch to look inside herself. What she discovers there was fascinating to the premiere audience at the Hannover Staatsoper. Kurt Weill’s musical was justly celebrated. Because the 70-year old piece was a great hit on Broadway, it’s hard to understand why it disappeared from the stage. . . .
Lady in the Dark is a challenge. Not only for the curious audience, but also for the theater and its facilities, beginning with the fact that the piece is two things in one. The spoken play is longer than the music side—one waits for almost 10 minutes for the first note. But the Hannover opera ensemble mastered the acting challenges confidently. . . .
The story jumps back and forth between the magazine’s editorial offices, the psychiatrist’s practice, and the dream world. Matthias Davids, who has already illustrated numerous times in Hannover how good (and intelligent) entertainment can look, coordinates these jumps perfectly and always has another idea on hand. Heinz Hauser creates for him a refined mirrored construction to play in–and later another clever set for the courtroom in the Circus Dream. . . . One can’t look fast enough to see how the costumes are changed. Above all, those of Winnie Böwe, who is perfectly cast as Liza Elliott, because she always finds the right tone. Whether in “The Saga of Jenny” or the touching “My Ship” (that brings the evening to a happy end), Winnie Böwe avoids operatic pathos without falling into a nightclub style. . . .”
–Rainer Wagner, Hannover’sche Allgemeine, 16 October 2011
“The devil wears Prada, and he is somehow also a part of this piece. The story is really super, the whole craziness of the Vogue-Mode media world, with a heavy shot of psychoanalysis and burnout on top. More contemporary it could hardly be–and yet it was written in 1941 by Kurt Weill as a real Broadway musical.
The four nightmares: They are worth the visit, and the costuming ideas are on a real Broadway level. When Liza Elliott dreams that the next cover for her magazine should somehow depict a circus, a choreographed (Melissa King) troupe of clowns romp animatedly over the stage. During the dream courtroom scene, applause breaks out when Justice, in the guise of a gigantic Barbie doll with the judge happily rocking in its giant bra, is rolled out on the stage. And the video projections (Max Friedrich, Daniel Wolff), which give the whole affair the necessary lunacy, are fantastic.
The music: Also worth the visit. When it really gets cracking (as at the beginning of the Second Act), it is the best quality Broadway. Liza Elliott (Winnie Böwe) has two numbers with goosebump potential: “My Ship” (a favorite of Julie Andrews) and the lavish “Saga of Jenny.” And then, too, there is the song “Tschaikowsky,” in which Russell Paxton (Daniel Drewes) spins out the names of 50 Russian composers one after the other–applause–and repeats them even faster in an encore. . . . The public was enthusiastic to the highest degree.”
–Henning Queren, Neue Presse, 17 October 2011
“This performance justifies the hope that the view in Germany of Kurt Weill’s American work can be changed. For a long time everything that Weill wrote in America, especially for Broadway, was considered as betrayal of his own ideals by a once socialistic composer; one smelled the nasty odor of commerce. However, on the one hand, in the meantime Die Dreigroschenoper and Mahagonny have fallen into an exotic-nostalgic peripheral position on the German theater landscape; on the other, the works that Weill composed in America are a logical development of his creativity. And funnily enough, in Mahagonny Weill already dealt with an American subject.
Seeing Lady in the Dark in Hannover, one is astounded at how exactly this work fits our time (the last production was in 1983 in Freiburg!). . . . On the way to Weill’s longed-for Ur-American opera, which he achieved six years later with Street Scene, Lady in the Dark represents a daring experiment in form. And an amalgam of classical Broadway melody, the harmonies of the Berlin Weill, and the emphasis of verismo. Is it a musical, a play with music, a Singspiel? The curtain rises–and no sound is heard. No music, at any rate, only spoken dialogue between Liza and her psychiatrist. There is music only in Liza’s four dreams; in between there is a lot of talking, Liza’s reports and then from the psychiatrist. Weill tried to make the music arise naturally from the drama–for that reason, in Lady it is not possible to perform the songs in English and the spoken dialogue in German, for then the music would have a music-hall couplet character. In Hannover the merger is very successful, thanks to a new, comfortably unfussy translation from Roman Hinze that contains very few linguistic atavisms and silly rhymes. . . .
The crazier the dreams become, the better the staging from Matthias Davids, the more gripping the conducting from Mark Rohde, and the wilder the set design from Heinz Hauser and costume design from Judith Peter.”
–Egbert Tholl, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 17 October 2011
“So it is with fashion: As soon as something is 70 years old, it seems like new again. In fashion it’s called Retro, in theater it’s repertoire revival. And because Kurt Weill’s Lady in the Dark is about mistakes and confusion in the circus of fashion, the elderly lady looks very good. In Hannover the seldom performed Broadway musical was deservedly praised, because the Staatsoper did itself proud in this partnership between play and musical. Die Dame in Dunkeln was successfully pushed into the spotlight.”
–Rainer Wagner, Die deutsche Bühne