Chicago Folks Operetta (CFO) is proud to announce the fully staged Chicago premiere of Kurt Weill’s anti-war operetta Johnny Johnson, June 24 – July 9, playing at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Based on the novel The Good Soldier Schwejk by Jaroslav Hasek, Johnny Johnson is written by Kurt Weill (music) and Paul Green (libretto) and edited by Tim Carter for the Kurt Weill Foundation. The CFO version is edited by Gerald Frantzen, directed by George Cederquist and music directed by Anthony Barrese.
Opening night is Saturday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m. The regular performance schedule is Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors (65 years and older), $30 for students (with student ID) and $20 for children (12 years and younger). For tickets and more information, please visit www.chicagofolksoperetta.org.
Kurt Weill’s and Paul Green’s witty anti-war operetta Johnny Johnson is set during World War I and the United States, having pledged to remain neutral, is pulled into the fight in order to make the world safe for democracy “over there.” Lowly American tombstone cutter Johnny Johnson, has been persuaded to enlist in the U.S. Army both by his sweetheart, Minny Belle Tompkins, and by President Woodrow Wilson’s promise of “a war to end all wars.” But confronted with the horrors of the trenches in France, he is outraged at the absurdity of it all, and with a hint of laughing gas, he fools the Allied generals into calling a cease-fire. Johnson is arrested, shipped back to America, and locked up in a lunatic asylum for his “peace monomania.” After 20 years in prison, Johnson is released and makes a living selling handmade toys as the trumpets of war once more sound in the distance.
Kurt Weill, like many other European operetta composers of Jewish origins, was forced out of Germany with the arrival of the Third Reich in the early 1930’s. The show, written in 1936, was “pure Weill,” with its anti-war theme and music that drew largely upon his unique orchestrations of his earlier European works. Johnny Johnson was developed in conjunction with the famed Group Theater headed by Lee Strasberg in New York City and ran for 68 performances at the 44th Street Theater. With a book and lyrics by Paul Green, the show was loosely based on Jaroslav Hasek’s novel the The Good Soldier Svejk, and its pacifist take on the First World War. The show’s anti-war theme resonates throughout and was indeed a brave undertaking by Weill. The name Johnny Johnson was derived from the American First World War casualty lists, as it was the name that appeared most frequently. Although rarely performed, Johnny Johnson is considered an important piece of the American musical theater and operetta canon.
The production, with a 15-piece orchestra, features singers from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony and Grant Park choruses, as well as up and coming performers from throughout Chicagoland. Chicago Folks Operetta Music Director Anthony Barrese, artistic director of Opera Southwest, conducts the orchestra with George Cederquist, Chicago Folks Operetta resident director, directing the production.
“The year 2017 is the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. entry into the First World War,” said Artistic Director Gerald Frantzen, “With wars currently raging in the Middle East and new provocations by the former Cold War power Russia and in North Korea; Johnny Johnson’s anti-war and pacifist leanings are more relevant than ever. Our Midwest premiere commemorates this country’s involvement in “the war to end all wars” and the lessons to be learned from aggression on an international scale.”
Performers include: Kaitlin Galetti, Robert Morrissey, Christine Steyer, William Dwyer, Gabriel di Gennaro, Maxwell Seiftert, Jonathan Zeng, Teaira Burge, Joshua Lee Smith, Nich Radcliffe and Mary Lutz.
Production team includes: Anthony Barrese, conductor; George Cederquist, director; Eric Barry, co-lighting designer; Josh Prisching, technical director and Adam Veness, co-lighting designer.
ABOUT ANTHONY BARRESE, Conductor
Anthony Barrese is the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Opera Southwest and works frequently as an award-winning freelance composer and conductor that is regularly engaged by North American and Italian companies. He has led several productions with Sarasota Opera (Lakmé, Le nozze di Figaro, Hansel and Gretel), and with Opera Southwest (Le nozze di Figaro, Die Fledermaus, La cenerentola). He was the Assistant Conductor of the Dallas Opera in 2006 - 2007 and returned there as Guest Conductor for a production of Tosca in 2008 and in 2015 for La Wally. In 2008, Barrese conducted a new production of Turandot in Ascoli Piceno’s historic Teatro Ventidio Basso, with a cast that included Nicola Martinucci as Calaf. He also made his French debut conducting Turandot at the Opéra de Massy. He made his operatic conducting debut in Milan with La bohème and recorded Roberto Andreoni’s quattro luci sul lago with ”I Solisti della Scala” (a chamber group made up of the first chair musicians of the La Scala Philharmonic) for broadcast on Italian National Radio (RAI 3).
As Artistic Director of Opera Southwest he has performed Rossini’s Otello with the American staged premiere of the finale lieto and in 2014 he lead the new world premiere of Amleto, not heard anywhere since 1871. In the 2015-16 season Barrese led a “Return of Rossini” festival at OSW, as well as a production of Norma at Florida Grand Opera. In recent seasons Barrese made debuts with Florid Grand Opera (Les pêcheurs de perles), Opera Theatre of St. Louis (The Kiss), Opera North (L’elisir d’amore) and Boston Lyric Opera (Don Giovanni).
Barrese is the recipient of numerous composition awards including the 2007 Georg Solti Foundation U.S. award for young conductors, a N.E.C. Contemporary Ensemble Composition Competition Award for his Madrigale a 3 voci femminili and two B.M.I. Student Composers Awards. As a musicologist, Mr. Barrese rediscovered, prepared and edited the critical edition of Franco Faccio’s opera Amleto, in conjunction with Casa Ricordi. Upcoming engagements include L’italiana in Algeri at Sarasota Opera (2017) and Semiramide with Opera Delaware (2017)
ABOUT GEORGE CEDERQUIST, Director
George Cedequist has directed new productions and opera scenes with Chicago Fringe Opera (where he is the Artistic Director), Chicago Summer Opera, North Park University, Wolf Trap Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Roosevelt University, the Bay View Music Festival and Chicago Opera Vanguard.
Cederquist is the recipient of the 2015 American prize in Directing, the 2011 – 2012 German Chancellor fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and his production of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night was chosen as a winner of Opera America’s Director-Designer competition. In May 2013, he presented Silent Night’s production concept to artistic directors and industry professionals during a special session of Opera America’s annual National Opera Conference in Vancouver, Canada. Also, during his fellowship in Germany, he served as a Regieassistent at the Staatstheater Darmstadt.
In September 2015, he launched “Opera Box Score,” America’s talk radio show about opera. Now in
its second season, he hosts the show every Monday at 9 pm (CT) live on WNUR 89.3 FM Chicago and it also shared as a podcast on iTunes.
Cederquist served as the Resident Artist Stage Director at Pittsburgh Opera during the 2013-2014 season. He served as the Assistant Director for the company’s mainstage productions and directed new productions of Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters and Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case. As the Summer 2013 Apprentice Stage Director at the Merola Opera Program, he directed the Merola Grand Finale at the War Memorial Opera House, collaborating with conductor John DeMain and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. Cederquist’s training includes an MFA in Directing from Northwestern University, a BA in Theatre Studies and English from Yale University and a Directing Fellowship at Wolf Trap Opera. A dual US-UK citizen, he is also an ensemble member of Steep Theatre Company (Chicago) and a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists.
ALSO PLAYING FROM CHICAGO FOLKS OPERETTA
A Lecture Featuring Music by Chicago Folks Operetta
“Kurt Weill and Paul Green: The Story Behind Johnny Johnson”
Directed by Gerald Frantzen
Music accompanied by Anatolyi Torchinskyi
Lecture by Tim Carter
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.
Performance schedule: Wednesday, May 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Performers include the singers Alison Kelly, Mary Lutz, William Dwyer and Gerald Frantzen and on piano Anatolyi Torchinskyi
Chicago Folks Operetta welcomes Kurt Weill scholar Tim Carter to Chicago for a lecture and performance. Carter, one of the most acclaimed Weill scholars, shares with the audience information on the creation and history of Weill and Green’s Johnny Johnson. The evening also includes performances of selections from Johnny Johnson and other Kurt Weill songs that showcase the operetta’s unique sound.
A Multi-Media Concert
Operetta and The Great War
June 28 and June 29
Directed by Gerald Frantzen
Music accompanied by Anatolyi Torchinskyi
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.
Performance schedule: Wednesday, June 28 and Thursday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m.
The second offering in the 2017 season is Operetta and The Great War, a multi-media concert looking at how the operetta industry survived The Great War. Featuring performances of many of the forgotten World War I operettas, as well as examining the role of operetta in wartime propaganda efforts, Operetta and The Great War includes the music of Emmerich Kálmán, Leo Fall, Edmund Eysler, Harold Fraser-Stimson, Reynaldo Hahn, Leo Ascher, Henri Christine, Jerome Kern and others. At the height of its popularity when the First World War broke out, operetta found itself in the unusual position of being a vehicle for the propaganda of nations. Whether Axis or Allied, the operetta stars and composers of the time joined their nation’s war effort delivering patriotic messages and raising money. During the late years of the war, the thin line that once separated operetta and cabaret was breeched, as the political song writing so common to the cabaret stage now found voice in operetta. Operetta would not only survive, but also thrive during one of the most destructive wars in history.
This original multi-media presentation was written by CFO Artistic Director Gerald Frantzen and includes a host, four singers and a small chamber group accompanied by images of artists and photographs from The Great War.
ABOUT CHICAGO FOLKS OPERETTA
Chicago Folks Operetta is a 501(c)(3) non-profit theater company devoted to the nurturing of live operetta through articulate and dynamic productions. In the belief that the arts serve to illuminate the human condition, Chicago Folks Operetta is dedicated to the revival and development of operetta, a popular and accessible form of music and theater for general audiences. In particular, the Chicago Folks Operetta concentrates on producing both Viennese and American operettas from the early 20th century.
Mr. Jerry Critser, The Pauls Foundation and the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music sponsor Chicago Folks Operetta