Showing posts with label CHICAGO FOLKS OPERETTA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CHICAGO FOLKS OPERETTA. Show all posts

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:


 The 2018 Season Includes:
Emmerich Kálmán’s operetta The Csárdás Princess (July 7 – 22),  
Forbidden Opera multi-media concert (October 18 and 21),
Franz Lehár’s Children’s Holiday Operetta Peter & Paul in the Land of Nod (December 2018)

 Attached image features lead actors in The Csárdás Princess
William Roberts (Boni), Emma Sorenson (Stasi), Lani Stait (Sylvia) and Jonathan Zeng (Edwin) 

Folks Operetta also announces The Korngold Initiative - A fundraising campaign to bring Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s rarely heard opera Die Kathrin (Kathrin) to Chicago for its American Premiere in 2019

Folks Operetta is proud to announce its 2018 season and a new fundraising campaign, The Korngold Initiative. All of these projects are part of their new Reclaimed Voices Series, which focuses on recovering and reviving the lost music of the Jewish composers of the Second World War. The series grew out of their research on operetta and the disproportionate numbers of Jewish composers who were silenced both before and after the Second World War. Jewish composers of opera suffered a similar fate. In a world where old prejudices resurface and where a new generation demagogues seeks to draw new lines of division and enmity, the stories of these composers take on a new urgency. Their works need to be heard, their stories told, and their memories restored.

This season includes the fully-staged Emmerich Kálmán masterpiece, The Csárdás Princess, July 7 – 22; a multi-media concert, Forbidden Opera, Friday, October 18 and 21 and for families celebrating the Holidays, Franz Lehár’s children’s operetta Peter & Paul in the Land of Nod, December. Specific details for each event are listed below. Tickets are on sale and available at

The 2018 Folks Operetta season includes:

The Csárdás Princess
July 7 – 22
Music by Emmerich Kálmán
Book by Leo Stein and Bela Jenbach
English translation by Hersh Glagov and Gerald Frantzen
Directed by Gerald Frantzen
Conducted by Mark Taylor
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.
Opening Night: Saturday, July 7 at 7:30 PM
Performance schedule: Fridays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $40 for adults, $35 for seniors (65 years and older) and $25 for students (with student ID)

Folks Operetta’s 2018 season kicks off with Emmerich Kálmán’s operetta The Csárdás Princess. Kálmán’s mastery of the Viennese waltz and of the music of his native Hungary have made this show an enduring favorite in Europe. The story follows the ups and downs of the unlikely love affair between an aspiring young singer from the provinces and the scion of a wealthy Viennese family. Kálmán, as an assimilated Hungarian Jew living in Vienna, would have been well aware of the pitfalls of navigating the upper echelons of Viennese society. The Csárdás Princess, which takes aim at the rigid class divisions of Kálmán’s time, resonates in our own. Critics consider The Csárdás Princess to be Kálmán’s masterpiece.

Written in 1915, the show played on Broadway under the title The Riviera Girl in 1917 – just as the U.S. was entering “The War to End All Wars.” Broadway would not prove to be the boon that Kálmán had been seeking as it ran for only 78 performances. P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, who were responsible for The Riviera Girl’s book and lyrics, admitted that the fault lay with them, not with Kálmán. Wodehouse later wrote that “the Kálmán score was not only the best that gifted Hungarian ever wrote, but about the best anybody ever wrote.” With America’s entry into the War, anti-German sentiment was high, precluding more performances of the show. It would not be performed again in this country until 1932, when it was given at the St. Louis Municipal Opera and warmly received.

The Second World War would take a tremendous toll on Kálmán. Although he managed to escape, first to France and then to America, many of his relatives died at the hands of the Nazis. Settling in California, Kálmán suffered the indignity of having his music declared “degenerate” by the Nazis while finding himself in a strange country with no prospect of work. He tried writing film scores, but the industry proved to be a hard fit. He died in 1953, leaving his last show Arizona Lady, an homage to his adopted country, unfinished. (Folks Operetta gave the U.S. premiere in 2010.)

The production team includes Conductor Mark Taylor, Director Gerald Frantzen, Set Designer Eric Luchen, Lighting Designer Erik Barry, Costume Designer Patti Roeder, and Technical Director Josh Prisching.

Forbidden Opera
Multi-media Concert Including Five Singers and a Small Chamber Orchestra
October 19 at 7:00 PM and October 21 at 2:00 PM
Directed by Gerald Frantzen
Written by Gerald Frantzen and Hersh Glagov
Piano and small chamber orchestra
Illinois Holocaust Museum, 9603 Woods Dr., Skokie
Tickets: $35

As part of the Reclaimed Voices series, Folks Operetta takes a look at the composers of opera that time has forgotten. During the Third Reich Jewish composers, as well as any composers whose music did not suit the Nazis, were banned and labeled degenerate. Some Jewish composers such as Gideon Klein, Viktor Ullman, Hans Krasa, Erwin Schulhoff and Pavel Haas, would perish in the Holocaust. The more fortunate ones (Ernst Toch, Hans Gál, Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, Arnold Schoenberg, Egon Wellesz and Erich Wolfgang Korngold) would ply their craft in their newly adopted homelands. For all of these composers, whether they survived the war or not, the post war years inflicted a further indignity; there was no one to champion their music after the war.

The concert Forbidden Opera will feature the work of these composers and the stories of their lives. This multi-media event will feature five singers, a small chamber group, a narrator and video projections.

Peter & Paul in the Land of Nod
A Children’s Operetta Workshop
Music by Franz Lehár
The Nineteenth Century Club
Performance schedule: 3 shows
Tickets: $35, $30 for groups
Recommended for families and children ages 5 and older.

Folks Operetta brings back Franz Lehár’s Peter and Paul in the Land of Nod, as part of its Reclaimed Voices series. Boasting nine ballet numbers á la The Nutcracker, this magical show was the first operetta Lehár wrote following his success with The Merry Widow. The librettists were Fritz Grünbaum and Robert Bodanzky. Grünbaum, a popular actor and cabaret performer and satirist,  would meet a terrible fate at the hands of the Nazis in the Second World War.

This wonderfully human story with its message of hope and love is a poignant reminder of the loss of writers such as Grünbaum and their contributions to art and music. The company will present this wonderful show in a new production with an English translation in rhyming verse by Hersh Glagov and Gerald Frantzen.  Featuring performers from the  Chicago Symphony  Orchestra  Chorus, children from the Children’s Operetta Workshop, a 15-piece orchestra, and leading ballet  dancers from the Chicago area, this is a holiday show not to be missed.

The Korngold Initiative
The Korngold Initiative is a two-year fundraising campaign to bring Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s rarely-heard opera, Die Kathrin (Kathrin), to Chicago for its American premiere. The goal is to raise $150,000 to employ local singers, actors, musicians, artists and designers for a new production of the opera at the Athenaeum Theatre in 2019. Folks Operetta’s version will be faithful to Korngold’s original intention to set the show in occupied Germany following the First World War. In keeping with Folks Operetta’s mission to make shows accessible, we will translate the libretto and perform the opera in English.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was one of the most unjustly neglected composers of the twentieth century. A child prodigy, he was praised by Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss and considered by many to be the successor to Mozart and Beethoven. His father, the prominent Viennese music critic Julius Korngold, was careful to nurture his son’s remarkable talent, securing composition lessons for the boy with Alexander Zemlinsky. Erich Wolfgang Korngold already had a sizeable body of work to his credit when he burst onto the world stage with his opera, Die tote Stadt, in 1923, at the tender age of 19.

Die Kathrin was Korngold’s last opera. He began working on it in 1933, when he was engaged in re-orchestrating some of the classic operettas of Johann Strauss Jr. and Leo Fall. A first performance, scheduled for 1938 in Vienna, was cancelled. This opera by a Jewish composer, depicting a love story between a German woman and a French soldier in French-occupied Saarland, was destined to run afoul of Nazi censors. The opera received its European premiere in Sweden in 1939, where it was given an overtly harsh and anti-Semitic review. To make matters worse, Die Kathrin was almost lost forever when the Nazis broke into Korngold’s villa to destroy his work. Michael Haas, in his book, “Forbidden Music, “writes: “Weinberger [music publisher] employees broke into the cellar, recovered what was left of the manuscript, and returned it to Korngold by interleaving sheets between pages of Beethoven, Mozart, and other acceptably ‘Aryan’ composers and posting them to the composer in California.”

Die Kathrin was finally given its Viennese premiere in 1950, but ran for only eight performances. In 1997, the BBC Orchestra created a complete recording of the work.

Since then, the work has seldom been performed. Its music, however, is compelling and masterfully written. It deserves another look. Folks Operetta is uniquely suited to the task of reviving Korngold’s masterpiece.

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, 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 Folks Operetta concentrates on producing both Viennese and American operettas from the early 20th century. Our mission also includes recovering the lost operas of Jewish composers who suffered or perished during The Second World War.

Lois D. and Maurice Jerry Beznos, Mr. Jerry Critser, The Pauls Foundation, The Richard Driehaus Foundation, Northern Trust

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:


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

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.


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)


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.


A Lecture Featuring Music by Chicago Folks Operetta

“Kurt Weill and Paul Green: The Story Behind Johnny Johnson” 

May 24

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. 

Tickets: $20

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. 

Tickets: $30

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. 

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

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