Kevin Clarke’s excellent article on Operetta on the Orel Website

Waltraut Haas and Peter Alexander in the 1960 film Version of 'The White Horse Inn'

Waltraut Haas and Peter Alexander in the 1960 film Version of ‘The White Horse Inn’

Kevin Clarke – who despite the English name hails from Berlin – has written a superb article on operetta and how we are still suffering the consequences of Nazi cultural policies. His exhibition at Vienna’s Theatre Museum was a source for my own pages on operetta in ‘Forbidden Music’. It really does come as a shock – as it did to me when I saw the exhibition – the extent of which Nazi puritanical and false nationalistic ideals have morphed operetta from its previous subversive social satire to the squeaky-clean Doris Day image it still enjoys today. It was not until I was producer of the recording of Kálmán’s ‘The Duchess of Chicago’ that I realised for the first time how racy the operettas of the pre-Hitler years were. The only thing I would suggest as the slightest of amendments to his article, is on the basis of Hans Gál’s article in the music publication ‘Anbruch’ in 1927 in their special ‘Opera’ edition, it is clear that there was a growing gulf between the perception of the ‘Comic Opera’ as composed by Lortzing and Cornelius and the operetta. Gál goes on to write that the operetta is the understandable development to grow out of the comic opera, a development he does not welcome but views as inevitable. The Nazis were simply moving the clocks back – what is so surprising is the fact that they were then not moved forward after 1945. The ‘Doris-Day-ification’ of operetta (an Anglo-American designation to describe a process that continued in the pre-1945 Zeitgeist and represented by the Austrians Waltraut Haas and Peter Alexander) suited the Kinder-Kirche-Küche Zeitgeist that incredibly dominated the 1950s and early ‘60s.

Kevin Clarke on the operetta and Nazi Europe – Orel Foundation