Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald


Saturday, 14 March 2015
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In 1931, Ödön von Horváth’s scathing but perspicacious “folk drama”premiered in Berlin. In it, he provides a precise, satirical snapshot of the way the petty bourgeoisie thought at the time, as they preserved their prejudices and narrow-minded moral values under the guise of a self-righteous “Viennese Gemütlichkeit”. Characters like this did not only exist in Vienna in the early 1930s, however; pompous members of the middle class whose stupidity makes them dangerous can be found everywhere and in every era. Now the Viennese composer, conductor, chansonnier and actor HK Gruber has set to work in collaboration with the director and librettist Michael Sturminger to turn Horváth’s play into an opera for the Bregenzer Festspiele and the Theater an der Wien.

The old magician owns a doll’s hospital and has a daughter called Marianne. She is to marry Oskar, the proprietor of a neighbouring butcher’s shop. However, she is not completely happy about this and on the day of her engagement runs away with the rogue Alfred. She gives birth to a child, but the love she and Alfred had for each other quickly dies owing to financial problems. When her father discovers her working as a nude dancer in a night club in an effort to earn some money, he indignantly disowns his wayward daughter. Alfred’s family does not like the destitute Marianne either, but they are stuck with her because of the child. The grandmother solves the problem: she leaves the troublesome infant outside in the cold and it dies of pneumonia. Now peace and order can return to the family. Oskar forgives Marianne and plans to marry her after all and Alfred goes back to his old flame, the wealthy tobacconist Valerie. To his main characters Horváth adds a motley company that provides a cross section of the petty bourgeoisie of the inter-war years: Hierlinger, a pimp; the cavalry captain who still lives in the days of the emperor; and the German law student Erich, whose opinions foreshadow Hitler’s Pan-German madness.