Flee or stay?
Keep silent or speak out?
Adapt or resist?
What would you do?
In the world premiere Lass uns die Welt vergessen – Volksoper 1938 (Let's Forget the World – Volksoper 1938) - which we show in German language with English surtitles -, we recall a particularly painful chapter in the history of the Volksoper.
The rehearsal stage of the Volksoper in 1938.
The ensemble is working towards the premiere of the operetta Gruß und Kuss aus der Wachau. It's all about entertainment, reality should stay outside!
However, with the National Socialists taking over, politics infiltrates the rehearsal room. What do intolerance, discrimination and fascism do to the staff of the Volksoper?
The following videos are in German, with English subtitles
Who were the artists whose stories are told in Lass uns die Welt vergessen – Volksoper 1938 (Let's Forget the World – Volksoper 1938)? Here, we provide a brief insight into the biographies of the individuals who ask the question: What would you do?
His life is dedicated to operetta: Alexander Kowalewski runs a touring company and tours all over Europe with his ensemble to present operetta novelties. He establishes himself in Merano and Bolzano as well as in Holland and France. In 1935, he takes over the management of the Volksoper jointly with Jean Ernest and successfully leads it until March 13, 1938. He manages to escape to France, and after the war, he returns to Vienna with his wife Clementine, attempting to continue his great Jara Beneš successes.
In the premiere, the role of Alexander Kowalewski is played by Marco Di Sapia.
Hardly any other writer of the time display such diverse talents and inexhaustible productivity as Fritz Löhner-Beda. Operetta librettos and hit songs, serious poems, and political thoughts showcase his various facets. He speaks out against the National Socialists, who immediately arrest him after the so called "Anschluss" (the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938). Löhner-Beda is deported to Buchenwald, where he composes the "Buchenwald Song" together with Hermann Leopoldi: "We still want to say yes to life." In 1942, Löhner-Beda is beaten to death in Auschwitz. His wife and daughters are also killed by the National Socialists.
In the premiere, the role of Fritz Löhner-Beda is played by Carsten Süss.
Under a different name, she is still known today: Hilde Güden. Born as Hulda Geiringer, her singing career began in 1935, and two years later, she was engaged at the Volksoper. Despite her father being a difficult personality with close ties to the National Socialists, she believed herself to be safe in 1938. However, according to the Nuremberg racial laws, the family was considered Jewish. Clemens Krauss supported the singer, and she sang at the Munich State Opera until 1942. After that, she had to leave Germany and lived in Italy. After the war, Hilde Güden became one of the most well-known singers.
In the premiere, the role of Hulda Gerin is played by Johanna Arrouas.
Together with Kurt Breuer, Hugo Wiener writes 25 revues for the cabaret theatre "Femina", which also go on tour in Europe. From 1935, Wiener collaborates with Fritz Löhner-Beda for Jara Beneš at the Volksoper. In 1938, his life is saved by a colleague, the director Eugen Strehn, who offers him an engagement in Colombia. Hugo Wiener's mother and sister cannot escape; they are deported and eventually murdered by the National Socialists. During the voyage to Colombia, Hugo Wiener meets Cissy Kraner, who will later become his wife. They return to Vienna after the war and become well known artists on the cabaret scene.
In the premiere, the role of Hugo Wiener is played by Florian Carove.
Kurt Herbert Adler grows up in a family that prioritises education, language skills and music. After completing his music studies, he takes an engagement in Kaiserslautern, where he meets his wife, the singer Trudl Möllnitz. In 1935, they move to Vienna, where Adler is engaged at the Volksoper and works as an assistant to Arturo Toscanini during the Salzburg Festival in the summer. In 1938, he flees to Chicago, but his wife does not follow, and the two separate. From 1953, Adler is the artistic leader of the San Francisco Opera and is considered one of the most influential opera directors worldwide.
In the premiere, the role of Kurt Herbert Adler is played by Lukas Watzl.
Not yet 18 years old, Kurt Hesky steps onto a Vienna stage for the first time, tours the provinces, and establishes himself as a director in the operetta genre in Karlsbad, while also performing in smaller roles. In 1935, Alexander Kowalewski hires him as a director and stage manager at the Volksoper, where he dedicates himself to three productions by Jara Beneš. In 1938, he successfully escapes to Brazil, where he engages in the gemstone trade. It is not known whether he continues his artistic activities.
In the premiere, the role of Kurt Hesky is played by Jakob Semotan.
Trudl Möllnitz (actually Gertrud) was born in Leipzig. In Kaiserslautern, where she was engaged as a mezzo-soprano, she met Kurt Herbert Adler. The two married in 1932 in Vienna. She was a singer and cabaret artist, appearing in numerous musical theater performances in Vienna. When Adler decided to go to the USA, she did not follow him. The two separated, and Trudl Möllnitz later married again, remaining true to her stage career under a new name.
In the premiere, the role of Trudl Möllnitz is played by Theresa Dax.
The operetta genre determines the life and career of Viktor Fleming on the stages of the Theater an der Wien, Raimundtheater, and the Volksoper. However, his great passion lies in the new medium of radio. As a director, singer, and producer, he dedicates himself to the world of operettas, even contributing his own compositions. In 1939, he flees to Luxembourg with his wife Johanna but is arrested after the invasion by the National Socialists. He is deported to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, where he is murdered in 1944.
In the premiere, the role of Viktor Flemming is played by Ben Connor.
The characters of Ossip Rosental, Leo Asch, Olga Zelenka, Walter Schödel and the stage manager of the Volksoper (played by Andreas Patton, Szymon Komasa, Sofia Vinnik, Nicolaus Hagg and Gerhard Ernst in the world premiere) were imagined for Lass uns die Welt vergessen – Volksoper 1938 (Let's Forget the World – Volksoper 1938) in order to give a role on stage to those employees who are not among the well-known and historically recorded artists. Their life stories told on stage are fictitious.