Jonny strikes up //
Krenek’s fourth opera »Jonny Strikes Up« premiered in Leipzig in 1927. It is regarded today as a masterpiece, a prototype of period opera which brilliantly reflects the sentiments of the late 1920s. It portrays the open-mindedness toward the new developments of the Machine Age, a fascination with America and jazz, and combines surreal elements with operatic conventions. His constellation of characters is based on traditional opera schemes. Two pairs of lovers – a serious couple (Max and Anita) and a humorous couple (Jonny and Yvonne) – are thrown off balance by the rival Daniello’s intrigues.
The singer Anita loves the composer Max and rescues him from committing suicide. During a guest performance in Paris, however, she meets the violin virtuoso Daniello, who owns a valuable Amati violin and spends a romantic evening with Anita. Jonny, the black jazz violinist of a Parisian hotel band, loves the parlour maid Yvonne and wants to get his hands on the Amati violin. But when the valuable instrument actually goes missing, a grotesque mix-up takes place and ends with a triumph for Jonny. Standing atop a train station clock which has transformed into a large globe, he joyfully strikes up on what is now his Amati violin – a sign that jazz has taken over Europe.
In »Jonny Strikes Up«, Krenek demonstrates his skill as a perceptive observer, not only in portraying the carefree attitudes of his decade, but also the real doubts and hardships of (an artist’s) life through the character of Max. At the same time, he reveals that the new attitude toward life in the 1920s is possible based on an illusion – a case of self-deception.
Krenek’s composition includes very catchy, popular modern rhythms, dances and harmonies, which, though described as ›jazzy‹, actually have nothing in common with real jazz. Nonetheless, the opera was banned by the National Socialists as ›Degenerate Art‹ – and not only for featuring the black protagonist Jonny.
Krenek’s »Jonny Strikes Up«, directed by Frank Hilbrich, is the first of a new music theatre series at the DNT titled »Opera of the Twenties«. Frank Hilbrich teaches theatre courses at the Berlin-Weissensee College of Art and in Basel. His most recent directing work include productions at the Staatsoper Hannover, the Staatstheater Mainz, the Theater Freiburg, where he directed Wagner’s »Ring« (nominated as Performance of the Year by the magazine Opernwelt), »Lohengrin« and »Parsifal«, and at the Theater Bremen, where he directed Künneke’s »Der Vetter aus Dingsda« [»The Cousin from Nowhere”] and Britten’s »The Turn of the Screw«.
Martin Hoff (conductor)
Frank Hilbrich (director)
Volker Thiele (stage design)
Gabriele Rupprecht (costumes)
Kathrin Kondaurow (dramaturgy)
Alexander Günther (Der Komponist Max)
Larissa Krokhina (Die Sängerin Anita)
Krister St. Hill (Der Jazzband-Geiger Jonny)
Bjørn Waag (Der Violinvirtuose Daniello)
Steffi Lehmann (Das Stubenmädchen Yvonne)
Sebastian Campione, Daeyoung Kim (Der Manager)
Artjom Korotkov (Der Hoteldirektor)
Detlef Koball, Jens Schmiedeke (Ein Bahnangestellter)
Günter Moderegger, Klaus Wegener (1. Polizist)
Chong Ken Kim, Yong Jae Moon (2. Polizist)
Oliver Luhn, Frank Uhlemann (3. Polizist)