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The Tsar has his Photograph Taken / The Wise Woman

Kurt Weill (1900-1950)
Carl Orff (1895-1982)

(instead of BORIS GODUNOV)

Der Zar lässt sich fotografieren / The Tsar has his Photograph Taken
Opera buffa in one act
Libretto by Georg Kaiser
First performed February 18 1928, Neues Theater, Leipzig

Die Kluge / The Wise Woman
Fairy Tale in 12 scenes
Libretto by the composer
First performed February 20  1943, Opera House, Frankfurt am Main!

Sung in German with German & English surtitles
Introductory talk (in German) will appear here and on YouTube shortly before opening night

A penchant for playing with different forms of theatre, traditions of storytelling and operatic conventions was shared by Dessau born Kurt Weill and Munich born Carl Orff. While one wrote a comic opera with his Der Zar lässt sich fotografieren / The Tsar has his Photograph Taken, first performed in 1928, the other composed something amusing yet serious and meaningful with his Die Kluge / The Wise Woman in the 1940s, combining fairy tales, folk theatre and Bavarian humour.

Weill's turbulent one act opera is about a Tsar, who's supposed to be assassinated in a photographer's studio in Paris. A very dangerous flirt begins between the aristocrat and one of the conspirators, who's passing herself off as a photographer called Angèle … Weill's Zeitoper (present day opera) combines popular music with innovations including a gramophone, on which Tango Angèle, top of the charts back then, is played.

Carl Orff's piece is told in 12 scenes, with equal zest but in a very different style. He combined motifs from Karl Simrock's German Proverbs (1846) with the Grimm fairy tale of Die kluge Bauerntochter / The Wise Farmer's Daughter, a story about a King and a clever girl which has be told, in varying ways, all over the world. The music emerges from normal speech, helping  Orff's The Wise Woman to make a powerful impression on stage. His palette of expression ranges from the spoken and rhythmical word to cantilena; and the percussion takes on a special role in typical Orff style. The use of rhyming couplets evokes an artistic folkloric, which often turns into pastiche.

In Weill's »Tsar Opera« the story is commented on by a male chorus in top hats and tails, Orff's tale by three Shakespearean minstrel rogues – who the audience at the world premiere in Frankfurt in 1943 heard saying: »Tyranny carries a scepter a long way«