The transition between the stage and reality is sometimes fluid. That's what our columnist Gero Schliess experienced when he saw the operetta "Ball at the Savoy" at the Komische Oper Berlin.
What an incredible night! Oh Berlin, never before had I experienced your lively, humorous and untamed face this way! And I kept thinking: Yes, that's exactly how you are. That's the way you feel.
I'm talking about an operetta. I can thank two artists for making my night so unusually delightful: Paul Abraham and Barrie Kosky.
'Ball at the Savoy'
Operetta composer Paul Abraham was in high demand until the Nazis abruptly put an end to his career.
A few years ago, Barrie Kosky, director of the Komische Oper, staged Paul Abraham's operetta "Ball at the Savoy," and it's back in this season's program.
It was my first encounter with the "Ball at the Savoy," a work that was written by Abraham in 1932 in Berlin, where it also premiered.
It tells the turbulent story of a freshly married couple of stars, who have a hard time remaining faithful to each other. Dagmar Manzel plays Madeleine de Faublas and Christoph Späth is her husband Aristide in Kosky's version. Their amorous adventures reach their climax, yes, at the ball at the Savoy, where both partners enjoy the company of others - wall to wall.
Back then a ball, today a techno club
And suddenly, the story catapults us into the here and now.We're right in the middle of Berlin, its nightlife, its temptations. Hot parties, beautiful people, quick sex, a bit of unfaithfulness and lots of adventures.
"Ball at the Savoy" feels like a dance floor in a techno club, where drunk people are sweating away. A hymn to yesterday's and today's Berlin.
The breathtaking revue created by Barrie Kosky is a feast of bright colors and puns over three and a half hours. The pace isn't too fast: It's a work with soul - Berlin's soul.
I've found it's not true that people here can be defined as "Berliner Schnauze" - an expression that describes the gruff and unfriendly attitude traditionally attributed to Berliners. They actually have a lot of humor and openly express their feelings. Even when it hurts. That's a trait of character that has often struck me.
Returning from their honeymoon trip, the two lovers sing "Ich habe einen Mann, der mich liebt" (I have a husband who loves me), only to fall out of their cozy love nest soon after, hitting the streets in search of nocturnal love affairs. And immediately, one detects a bit of irony and sarcasm in the song - to be replaced by melancholy and a sense of yearning later on.
The temptations of Berlin nights
Paul Abraham's music reflects the atmosphere of Berlin clubs as he experienced them after moving from Vienna to Berlin in 1930. The music tastes and smells of this city. That's what makes it so authentic and timeless, at least in my newcomer's ears.
"Es ist so schön, am Abend bummeln zu gehen" (It's so nice to stroll around at night) is repeated several times in the operetta. And, of course, Berlin is the right place to do that.
Still every evening, every night, finally comes to an end - and that also holds true for some passionate love affairs. "Einmal, da schlägt uns die Stunde, in der wir unser Sehnen einsam tragen" (The hour will come in which we carry our longing lonesomely), wrote Paul Abraham in one of his most moving songs. Listening to it, we get the feeling that one day this sad fate might also be ours.
But who knows. In any case, they're still tomorrow's sorrows. For the time being, I definitely prefer to enjoy being infected by the Berlin nightlife virus. So I decided to go dancing. Until dawn. What a fantastic night!