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Wagner frisch auf den Tisch - Deutsche Oper Berlin

Wagner fresh on the table

tutti d*amore are rehashing Oscar Straus’ DIE LUSTIGEN NIBELUNGEN – and creating an operetta spectacle

Four young people are sitting at the Ristorante Don Giovanni near the opera house. It’s apparent that these are the “tuttis”, owing to their unusually vibrant attire and particularly familiar manner around each other. You can tell that these four spend a lot of time around each other, and make a lot of decisions together. That’s nearly impossible without humour and self-deprecation, and so they wind each other up a little over pizza, pasta and wine.

The collective tutti d*amore consists of a director, a mezzosoprano and two tenors. Its name is a play on Italian opera tradition, but it’s nonsense: It cannot be translated, it’s as much Italian gibberish as the German version of Italo pop. The ”amore” in the name, the love for music, is front and centre – and, as everyone knows, the way to one’s heart is through the stomach. There are five of us at the table, the conversation simultaneously casual and routine. It quickly becomes clear that the tuttis have a sort of agenda and know what they believe in, having aligned on certain goals in their six years of working together. Their motto: oper*etta for the masses. As colourful, wild and highly professional as possible.

Anna Weber, Caroline Schnitzer, Ferdinand Keller and Ludwig Obst work as hybrid artists at venues that wouldn’t be associated with classical music at first glance. They seek to draw people in with the connecting power of the operetta in techno clubs like Kater Blau or Sisyphos that have never really had much to do with the opera world whatsoever – yet their raison d’être is people’s love for music. Opera and rave also pursue a similar fever of passion in the moment.

The four tuttis met during their studies at the School of Music Hanns Eisler. Early on, they started developing new and collective approaches and production methods as a counter to the structures of classical music and its hierarchies. It’s unusual that three of the four are themselves singers, and that they work with the director to shape the conceptual and artistic alignment of the collective.

With their unique blend of subculture and high culture, tutti d*amore seek to address the urgent questions we face today. They have created two works on gentrification, as well as TUTTI IN CAMPAGNA, a travelling operetta performed at various rural venues in Brandenburg. MAGNA MATER is about a matriarchal state; the work is based on Franz von Suppè’s DIE SCHÖNE GALATHEE and Paul Lincke’s LYSISTRATA, although the roles are reversed, exaggerated and alienated until only cliches remain. It becomes clear that the abuse of power can never be the solution, regardless of whether the society is patriarchal or matriarchal.

Depending on the scope of the project, the extended tutti family also includes a choir and a chamber orchestra. It’s important to the founding members that everybody feels seen and that they belong, and also that everybody shows initiative and responsibility. “We need a cocktail of professional artists from the disciplines of music and theatre who want to shake this art form beyond just being performers. We happily take on the care work for that purpose.”

It is with these goals in mind that they are taking on the Deutsche Oper Berlin, specifically with a rewrite of Oscar Straus’ and Rideamus’ DIE LUSTIGEN NIBELUNGEN in the form of…drum roll…an operetta! This work is a caricature of Wagner’s heroic epic, dragging its characters through the mud as it does so: King Gunther is lovesick. He wants to win the hand of Queen Brünnhilde, but she is known to strike dead any suitor who cannot defeat her in combat. Siegfried, dragon-slayer extraordinaire, is to don a cloak of invisibility and assist Gunther in this battle while leading the German people into a new age by marrying Gutrune. Wagner’s mythology is heavily ragged on through slapstick, and the hierarchy of the characters (and, thus, the time-honoured canon) is put into question.

The collective turns the comedy up more with a rewritten script, making the plot more in tune with our current reality. Problems suddenly arise during the production: The choir doesn’t show up – does the audience have to jump in? The tuttis are always aware of their own position and label as a rebellious troupe in the hallowed halls of Wagner’s historic productions. And, of course, the night has to include some new musical hits. Tutti d*amore wants the audience to experience the performance instead of just witnessing it. “But don’t worry,” they add, “we’re not here to make a fool out of anyone except ourselves.”

 

Olga Hohmann lives in Berlin, where she writes essays and prose. Her performance “Der Schwanengesang, oder: Höhenangst” was performed in the Tischlerei at the Deutsche Oper Berlin as part of extended version: THE FLYING DUTCHMAN

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