02/10/2018

Power games: The Yes-Sayer and The Dictator

Reading time: 2 min. Kurt Weill Ernst Krenek

Junges Staatstheater Braunschweig dedicates an evening to the theme of "Power games" and will perform Kurt Weill's opera Der Jasager, Mauricio Kagel's Der Tribun and Ernst Krenek's Der Diktator on 28 October. Power will be the focus of the triple evening, opening up important themes about manipulation, morality, society, life and death.

Further performances will take place on 30 and 31 October, 11 November, 02 and 19 December.

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The school opera Der Jasager goes back to the Japanese fable Tanikô, a play from the centuries-old Nôh theatre. A shortened English version of the Noh play was translated into German by Elisabeth Hauptmann and made its way to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Weill composed Der Jasager in the first half of 1930, pausing only for the turbulent première of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny on 9 March 1930. The term ‘school opera’ gave Weill a number of possibilities for combining the concepts of ‘education’ and ‘opera’: the opera teaches the composer – or a whole new generation of composers – to approach the operatic genre in a new way. But it is also a question of re-training the process of operatic performance, with the end goal of staging the work so naturally and simply that children become the ideal performers. And finally, Weill also considered ‘school operas’ as meant for use in schools: ‘it is thus essential that a piece for schools should give children the opportunity to learn something, beyond the joy of making music.’ (Weill)

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Even when he was young, Ernst Krenek was a highly political person who displayed an astonishing maturity in his way of thinking and also in his works. Three years after Hitler’s unsuccessful putsch in Munich and two years after Mussolini gained a two-thirds majority in the Italian parliament, Krenek composed a one-act opera for which he wrote his own libretto that urgently highlights the dangers of fascism. Der Diktator is a tragic opera that predicted the tragedy of National Socialist dictatorship.

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