Back to All Events

Operetta in Exile - The music silenced by the Third Reich

  • Stage 773 1225 West Belmont Avenue Chicago, IL, 60657 United States (map)

With its penchant for social satire and its disproportionate number of Jewish librettists, composers, and performers, the genre of operetta was bound to have a troubled relationship with the Third Reich. The Nazis were constrained to recognize the genre’s popularity – indeed, many Nazis were operetta fans themselves. But, as was true throughout the arts and sciences, many of operetta’s finest creative minds either perished or were forced into exile. In this multi-media concert, we will explore and pay tribute to the librettists and composers of that era.

The strange relationship of the Nazi regime to the arts has been well documented. The Nazis sought to eradicate art that they saw as “degenerate” or whose creators they deemed racially impure; at the same time, if a work or genre was popular, they would often try to co-opt it for propaganda purposes. These two competing tendencies often led to policies that were contradictory, illogical, and downright hypocritical. Many of the finest artists of the time were forced into exile, while those who were unable to leave faced persecution, imprisonment, and death.

The genre of operetta was no exception. Appealing to all classes of society, operetta was undeniably popular throughout Europe. However, its often satirical nature, as well as the large number of Jewish composers, librettists, and performers working in the genre, meant that it was on a collision course with the cultural norms of the Third Reich. In addition, operetta had long been seen as a “Jewish” art form, due its popularity with Jewish audiences and to the number of Jews involved in every aspect of its production. As was the case with so many artists and intellectuals of the period, many of operetta’s leading composers and librettists faced exile or persecution. In addition to these personal tragedies, this was a disruption from which the art form of operetta would never completely recover.A list of the artists caught up in this historical nightmare reads like a Who’s Who of operetta, including composers such as Emmerich Kálmán,  Oscar Straus, Leon Jessel, Edmund Eysler, Robert Stolz, Paul Abraham, Jean Gilbert; and librettists Alfred Grünwald, Julius Brammer, Ludwig Herzer, Fritz Lohner-Beda and Fritz  Grunbaum.

This performance will tell their stories through letters, images, and, of course, their own music and lyrics.

An exploration of the music of Leo Ascher, Emmerich Kálmán, Jean Gilbert, Paul Abraham, Robert Stolz, Leon Jessel and the words of Fritz Löhner-Beda, Fritz Grünbaum, Alfred Grünwald, Julius Brammer and Ludwig Herzer. Featuring 6 singers and a small chamber orchestra. Video design by Liviu Pasare.


General Admission $30