Weill watchers in Germany have reason to sit up and take notice as Staatsoperette Dresden, a leading musical theater company, takes on his most successful Broadway show, One Touch of Venus (“Ein Hauch von Venus”). The show ran 567 performances from 1943-1945, starring Mary Martin with Elia Kazan in the director’s chair. Its wit and humor, provided by Ogden Nash (lyrics and book) and S.J. Perelman (book), had an unusual level of sophistication, and the score includes some of Weill’s best-loved songs: “Speak Low,” “West Wind,” “I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” “Foolish Heart,” and more.
The Dresden production holds similar promise, led by Matthias Davids, who has made a name for himself all over Germany and Austria directing American musicals. Audiences will hear for the first time a new German translation of book and lyrics by Roman Hinze. Both men have served Weill well before: Davids led a production of Lady in the Dark in Hannover (2011). Hinze provided the German version for that production, and he went on to translate The Firebrand of Florence for a 2013 staging–at the Staatsoperette, of course. The cast is headed by Johanna Spantzel in the title role, and it’s not her introduction to Venus; she appeared in a 2010 production at the Kurt Weill Fest Dessau. Back then, at the beginning of her career, she was part of the ensemble, but now she will be the center of attention. The role of Molly Grant is taken by Winnie Böwe, who played the lead under Davids’s direction in Lady in the Dark, and more recently, sang on Ensemble Modern’s latest Weill recording under HK Gruber. The lead male role, Rodney Hatch, is shared by Jannik Harneit and Gero Wendorff; Christian Grygas plays Whitelaw Savory.
Venus has seen several major German productions in the last thirty years; both the house and the personnel present cause for optimism about the latest one. After six performances this summer, the Staatsoperette will bring it back during the 2019-20 season, offering thirteen further performances between 30 November 2019 and 3 May 2020.
Program note by Peter Christian Feigel
Blog post by Winnie Böwe
Learn more about One Touch of Venus