Friday, October 28, 2016

Viktoria und ihr Husar

Viktoria with her husband -- in his dreadful shiny blue jacket
A close-up of the hair

I have just finished watching my DVD of "Viktoria und ihr Husar" for the second time.  It was written well outside the Golden Era of Operetta so I did not expect it to be of the same standard, and it was not.  Both the libretto and the music disappointed to some extent.  The composer, Paul Abraham, did apparently get some acclaim in his day but seems to be forgotten now, for good reason, I think. I had certainly never heard from him. To me, none of the songs were memorable.

So why did Dagmar Schellenberger decide to put it on at Moerbisch?  I would say that she put it on just as a piece of  light entertainment.  The plot was so corny that it could not have been much else.  So the show was, at a rough estimate 90%singing and dancing and capering around, all done very colorfully.  So I imagine that the audience would have appreciated the ever-changing colorful scenes that flitted before them.

Some writers have described the show as a "Revue operetta",  meaning that the story was just a small framework around a whole series of light sketches.  It is that. So if that is what the audiences expected, they got it.

I wonder a little what the costume dept. was up to.  The "American" was presented in some weird get-ups.  The shiny blue jacket he wore in the early part of the show was was quite revolting and I have never seen anything like some of his later ensembles on any live American.  Possibly they have absorbed the British stereotype of Americans, that they dress in a tastelessly flashy way.

Americans do tend to dress more colorfully than the English but the costume dept. seems to have let their imaginations rule the day here.  Mind you, when a deplored minority of the English get into their shell-suits, anything goes -- so the Moerbisch designers may have been aware of that.

A shell suit

Before I started watching the show, I did not look to see who was in the cast.  So I was vaguely curious to see who the young woman was who had the leading role.  She looked in her 20s so I just assumed that she was some new singer.  So when I looked up the cast I was amazed to see that the leading lady was none other than KS Dagmar Schellenberger herself.

At the risk of extreme ungallantry I note that it is some time since Dagmar was in her 20s.  So it is amazing what stage makeup, stage lighting and careful cinematography can do.  I note that there was not much in the way of close-ups on her this time.  But she was as sprightly as ever, running around the set  with great energy. She even drove off on the motorbike. The singing was not very demanding vocally but she managed to pump out some big notes here and there.

 That she took the leading role for herself was no great surprise.  Her predecessor at Moerbisch, Harald Serafin, also usually cast himself in major roles in his own productions.

I have not yet been able to find much in the way of reviews of the show but, as a revue, I imagine it was a great success.  I have never enjoyed revues so my limited appreciation of this one should not be read as a general criticism.

Viktoria (Dagmar) finally get her Hussar

Aren't those Hungarian costumes gorgeous!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Opulent and colorful "Night in Venice" in Mörbisch

A review of the latest production

A cruise ship on Lake Neusiedl is not seen every day. And such a sumptuous and colorful operetta as Thursday night at the premiere of Johann Strauss's "A Night in Venice" is also not often seen. Both singers, dancers and the ensemble "behind" set designer Walter Vogelweider -- Karl Absenger, Susanne Thomasberger -- were very impressive.

Anyone who might still be skeptical at director Dagmar Schellenbergers debut in this responsible position in 2013, must after this year's production throw all concerns literally overboard. Because the Mörbisch Lake Festival has ascended to the heights. One part of the impressive stage was rotated by hardworking staff on foot and then we saw the mighty ship with photography-mad tourists on deck, sometimes one even saw below deck.

Vocally shining in the costume drama and comedy of errors were, inter alia, Herbert Lippert as captain and his first officer, Caramallo, Mirko Roschkowski. The director herself was also on  stage  playing the lively Barbara with her interest in her muscle-bound nephew Enrico (Otto Jaus) because of her aged husband. Schellenberger shines especially with the "Schwipslied"  (Tipsy song) and rightly reaps  much applause.

This year's production stands out but not only vocally. Costume and dancers enter into a wonderfully harmonious symbiosis. The clothes: Thomas Berger was apparently among others inspired by Steampunk, which, although at first glance seems unusual for an operetta from the 18th century, but skilfully brought the Strauss classic into the present day. That one is in the 21st century, one notices at the latest when the first phone is seen or when someone is  complaining about missing SMS.

Things did not go entirely to plan on the opening night. Now and then there were some technical problems, particularly with the sound going up and down. Nevertheless, it is was well done, with impressive images and beautifully sung and played tunes (musical director: Andreas Schüller).  To start,  there were some beautiful fireworks synchronized with a musical water ballet - that's Schellenberger's signature and not to be missed. Mörbisch is - with or without a giant ship - Schellenberger's homeport.


Hofmeister, Serafin, Schellenberger at the Premiere

Verena Scheitz (as Agricola) with Prokopetz (as Senator Barbaruccio)

Herbert Lippert as Captain, with Elena Puszta (Annina)

Dagmar as Barbara Delacqua

The whole show is already online, though it did not run smoothly for me.

Tipsy song

I suddenly feel so strange,
Something is prickling and tickles my blood,
Something carries me far away in heaven’s delight,
And I must laugh, laugh for joy,
Also, because I feel like doing something stupid,
Maybe I am a little tipsy,
No, no, it can’t be so.

Before I drank from one glass,
Now I am drinking from two, how did that happen?
And then I wonder, if I only knew,
Did I kiss someone already today?

No, no, no, no, ha, ha, ha, ha…

I suddenly feel so strange, etc.

Hopsasa, tralala, oh, I know what I know!
Everything looks crooked, everything is turning in circles,
Everything that was standing still, I can tell,
I can’t trust it any more, it is dancing away;
And when I walk I feel like I am floating,
Until I finally get to the place I am trying to reach.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, ha, ha, ha, ha…

I suddenly feel so strange, etc.

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Very surprised and overwhelmed"

On Thursday evening, at the premiere of this year's operetta production at Mörbisch,  Harald Serafin, from 1992 to 2012 director of the festival, was awarded an honorary membership of the Festival by his successor Dagmar Schellenberger. Serafin expressed that he was "very surprised and overwhelmed".

The former Mörbisch director made an attempt to grab a microphone and  make a long speech -- to lots of laughs from the audience - as in his heyday as festival director. Schellenberger in turn hoped with a wink that he accepted the award anyhow.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

News from Moerbisch -- 3 July

A ship will come: On July 9,  on Lake Neusiedl a huge cruise ship will be at anchor. It is 30 meters in diameter, weighs at least a ton and is the centerpiece of the stage for the new production of Johann Strauss' operetta "A Night in Venice" at the Mörbisch Lake Festival 2015.

After a recent drop in attendance, the Open -Air Festival is  now improving. 7,000 visitors  more than 2013 were counted last season and the upcoming spectacular new production of the turbulent carnival comedy is expected to continue this trend.

Director Dagmar Schellenberger has engaged audience favorites like Joesi Prokopetz and Verena Scheitz as the main character.  Tenors Herbert Lippert and Heinz Zednik will also set a good tone.  The show has flirting, intrigue and hectic action

Original German here

More good news: "Due to the recently covered forecourt of 5,000m2 on two levels for the upcoming season we can guarantee that also during unfavourable weather situations our visitors won´t be exposed to the forces of nature anymore."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


(Sensation! 168,000 visitors to the lake stage at Moerbisch for "Anatevka", the Moerbisch version of "Fiddler on the roof". Most patrons had already seen the Broadway version. Lots of new patrons, including young people)

Die Intendantin der Seefestspiele Mörbisch im Burgenland (Österreich, Europa) Dagmar Schellenberger und ihr Team freuen sich über die gelungene Seebühnen-Saison 2014. 168.000 Besucherinnen und Besucher wurden in der Saison 2014 gezählt. Für Dagmar Schellenberger war es 2014 die zweite Saison als Intendantin und sie spielte in der Seefestspiel-Produktion "Anatevka" die Rolle der Golde.

Von den 168.000 Besuchern haben sich insgesamt 127.000 Besucher die Broadway-Produktion "Anatevka" angesehen. Der Musical-Klassiker "Anatevka" wurde in 23 Vorstellungen (21 reguläre Vorstellungstermine, 1 Generalprobe und 1 Sondervorstellung) von denen zwei regenbedingt abgesagt wurden, aufgeführt. Dies entspricht einer Auslastung von 91 Prozent. Zum Vorjahr konnte ein Besucherzuwachs von etwa 7.000 erreicht werden.

Dagmar Schellenberger: "Es ist uns dieses Jahr gelungen, unser Stammpublikum zu erfreuen und gleichzeitig viele Gäste anzulocken, die sonst nicht unbedingt nach Mörbisch kamen, vor allem viele junge Leute!" "Das bestärkt mich auf dem Weg", so die Seefestspiel-Intendantin weiter "traditionell inszenierte Operette in Mörbisch unregelmäßig auch mit klassischem Musical abzuwechseln."


Dagmar as "Golda"

The stage

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Behind the scenes at Moerbisch 2014

The video below has just been released.  It gives us a look at preparations for the 2014 performance of "Anatevka" and events surrounding it.  I was pleased to see that a lot of the original "Fiddler on the Roof" music was retained.

But what I liked best was that we are given a few good shots of a cheery Schellenberger.  And she is looking remarkably good for a lady in her late 50s.  That North German climate she grew up in is very kind to complexions.

The poor thing looked quite tense in the 2013 interview -- understandably as it was her first year of running the show there. She obviously felt under great pressure to get everything right. She did make some substantial changes, I gather. Anyway 2013 did apparently go well so in the 2014 interview she is back to what I believe is her normal cheerful self. Good to see.

No subtitles, unfortunately.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


You might have seen Dagmar Schellenberger already, if you have been to our festival. In this interview you get to know her a little bit better.

My favorite operetta... always the one that is currently occupying my mind, but I especially like the really opulent, classical pieces.

I like to relax...

...working in my garden. It has always been of great importance to me to have that possibility. Since I have moved to Burgenland, I even know about the cultivation of grapevines – I have some behind my house.

My family...

...supports me in everything I do. My daughter, son-in-law and my two (three by the end of this year!) grandchildren live in Berlin. For quick, spontaneous visits, that’s a long way. But fortunately nowadays there’s the internet and we can do videochats! In summer, they all come to Burgenland and visit the festival of course.

An on-stage-experince I will never forget...

...was when I actually broke my ankle during a show in 2000. I still finished singing „Les Contes d’Hoffmann“ and was rushed tot he Hospital afterwards. I needed surgery to put everything back in order.

My favourite dish...

... is nearly everything apart from herring. I particularly like a good steak every now and then.

What I like about Austria...

... ist the laid-back and humorous way people have about themselves. That made it really easy for me to feel at home here.

The fascinating thing about Lake Neusiedl is...

... how many colors it shows! According to time and light it might sparkle vividly yellow one moment and then turn into powerful red or majestic purple. This gem instantly put a spell on me and I am very glad to be able to live here now.