STELLA - Das blonde Gespenst vom Kurfürstendamm

Singspiel. Neuköllner Oper 2016 - Text: Peter Lund - Musik: Wolfgang Böhmer - Regie: Martin G. Berger - Bühne: Sarah Karl

 

Das Stück befasst sich mit der historischen Person der Stella Goldschlag, die als Jüdin zunächst illegal in Berlin vor den Nazis untertauchte und dann - gezwungenermaßen - illegal lebende Juden und Jüdinnen an die Gestapo auslieferte. Sie wurde sowohl von einem DDR-Gericht wie von einem der BRD dafür zu Gefängnis verurteilt, sah sich selbst aber als "Opfer des Faschismus" an und beantragte in der BRD eine dementsprechende Entschädigung. Das Sück stellt noch einmal sorgfältig und in kontrovers die Frage nach Täter und Opfer, Schuld und Sühne.

Das Stück erhielt 2016 den Deutschen Musicalpreis in sechs von neun Kategorien: Bestes Musical, Bestes Buch, Beste Komposition, Beste Gesangstexte, Bestes Bühnenbild, Beste Hauptdarstellerin.

 

Hier zwei youtube-links des Mitschnitts aus der Neuköllner Oper:

Teil 1: https://youtu.be/DhG3qCDDMO4

Teil 2: https://youtu.be/0g34Vt8pttM

Und mein persönlicher Lieblingssong: "Wohin?" mit der Hauptdarstellerin Frederike Haas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OobPx_RgBS8

Hier eine sehr schöne und engagierte Kritik:

 

“Stella: Ein deutsches Singspiel” By Wolfgang Böhmer And

Peter Lund“

Kevin Clarke

Operetta Research Center

29 June, 2015

 

It seems there is a new and inspiring wave of “history musicals,” with Hamilton on

Broadway leading the way: a show about the life of American Founding Father Alexander

Hamilton, with hip hop music, lyrics and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It turned out to be

the greatest box office draw of the current Broadway season, because of its inspired novel

way of story-telling, and its cheeky way of dealing with “national history.” The new show

by composer Wolfgang Böhmer and author Peter Lund, Stella: Das blonde Gespenst vom

Kurfürstendamm, labeled “Ein deutsches Singspiel,“ also deals with national history, in this

case the history of the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1950s and 60s.

 

Stella asks the question: how did post-war society deal with Nazi crimes against Jews, and

which crimes did the Jews themselves commit during Nazi times? Obviously, this is a

complex topic with no easy answers, and the story of Stella Goldschlag demonstrates the

complexity perfectly. She was a Jewish girl from Berlin, born in 1922, she dreamt of

moving to the USA and of becoming a Hollywood star, but her family didn’t get a visa. So

they stayed in Germany after 1933, and Stella began working for the Gestapo in the 1940s as

a so called “Greifer,” someone who helped finding other Jews for deportation: 300 people,

to be exact. Stella did it to save her own life, and that of her parents who were imprisoned by

the Nazis. In the end, though, she couldn’t stop them from being deported and killed in

Theresienstadt. She herself survived, as did her daughter Yvonne; possibly a child whose

father was SS officer Walter Dobberke.

In 1946, Stella handed in a claim under a false name to be recognized (and financially

compensated) as a “victim of fascism,” a claim that ended up in the hands of the Jüdische

Gemeinde who remembered her actions and the many people who were deported because of

Stella.

They put her in front of a judge, and she was sentenced to 10 years of prison in Russia

(1947-1957). Upon returning to Germany, Stella was not allowed to see her daughter, who

the Jewish Community had placed with a new family. Stella was infuriated by this, married

an ex-Nazi, converted to Catholicism and become an outspoken anti-Semite. Many more

court cases followed, in all of them Stella claimed that the accusations against her were a lie.

She lived until 1994, when she committed suicide at age 72: a late sign of guilt which she

had not shown (publicly) before?

 

It is an emotionally charged story with many gripping moments, and posing various

profound questions that are being discussed in Germany – also in the entertainment industry

– at the moment. Peter Lund tells the story on two time levels, jumping back and forth

between a chronological narrative of events, and moments in which Stella looks back at

what happened, before dying. The dramaturgy is contrasting, focusing on the key scenes of

the story: Stella’s dialogues with her father (who cannot believe his daughter collaborated

with the Nazis), with her four husbands, with the Nazi officers (who blackmail her into

working for them by threatening to kill her parents), with the judges, with her daughter (who

refuses to see her as her mother because of the evil things Stella did), and with herself.

Isabella Köpke as Yvonne in “Stella.” (Photo: Robert M)

In contrast to the Hamilton Broadway model, composer Wolfgang Böhmer has not opted for

a radical musical update, instead he has chosen music that is mostly reminiscent of Kurt

Weill, with a few “modern music” sequences thrown in, possibly to demonstrate that this

whole enterprise is intended to be serious. It’s actually the overture (or prelude) that starts

like any German arts council funded “Uraufführung,” with off-putting atonal chamber music

that made me want to get up and leave right away. But Böhmer soon comes round and

delves into a more accessible sound world, familiar to anyone who knows his previous work

with Peter Lund (Leben ohne Chris et al.)

 

There are some effective musical numbers – spooky waltzes, snappy ensembles à la

Sondheim’s Follies or Company, a slight hint of “degenerate” 1920s jazz, Volkslieder,

synagoge chant – that are effectively sung by a superb cast. Frederike Haas as Stella-with-ablonde-

wig has an impressive voice that made me think of the young Ute Lemper; though

Haas is a very different type of stage personality than Lemper. (She was seen, years ago, at

the Neuköllner Oper in the dazzling production of Messeschlager Gisela.) Haas is also a

convincing actress, portraying the “monster” Stella in such a way that one is never sure

whether to despise her, or feel sympathy for her. Only Stella’s final song, in which she

declares to be our “eternal Jewess” (“Ich bin eure ewige Jüdin, euer einziger deutscher

Star”) came across a little too out-of-the-blue and too over-simplified: not Haas’s rendition

of the number, but the song itself.

 

The men were equally impressive, especially Jörn-Felix Alt as Stellas ice-cold collaborator

husband Rolf Isaaksohn. Mr. Alt has the rare ability to use his dazzling good looks to

present a totally emotionless façade, while making it evident that it’s only a façade behind

which absolute selfishness and cynicism hide. His duets with Miss Haas were chilling, as

was the duet between Stella and her daughter Yvonne (Isabella Köpke) and the final

encounter with her father, who she gets to accompany to the train taking him to

Theresienstadt – a special favor of her Nazi “lover” so Stella could say good-bye.

 

 

Given the brilliance of the cast (Victor Petijean as Walter Dobberke, Markus Schöttl as

Adolf Eichmann, David Schroeder as Stella’s father, Samuel Schirmann as Samson

Schönhaus), given the great playing of the small band under the direction of Tobias

Bartholmeß, and given the grandeur of such a story, I wished the music could have been

more “special” – whatever that might mean.

Instead, it is a well-made score, absolutely serviceable, but rarely inspired in the way that

“Hamilton” lifted its history lesson to a new level.

Which leaves the staging as the last point of interest. It was done by Martin G. Berger and

played in a glass pavilion designed by architect Sarah-Katharina Karl. This pavilion was

placed in the middle of the auditorium, so that the audience sits on either side of it. The

upper part of the pavilion offered white walls on which black-and-white films were

projected: live video images of the singers, clips from Marika Rökk dance sequences or

other historic material. The rights for these must have cost the Neuköllner Oper a small

fortune (video: Roman Rehor).

 

 

I found the glass house idea interesting, because it reminded the viewer: he/she who lives in

a glass house should not throw stones! But other than that? It was not a particular

convincing, or attractive, set for this story. What the director totally ignored was the fact that

there are different time levels. In Berger’s staging there was no differentiation, of any kind,

between the chronologically ordered scenes and the flash-back moments. If you didn’t read

the synopsis in the program booklet beforehand, you probably ended up very confused by

this staging.

Perhaps this is typical of young directors in Germany, working in subsidized theater (this

production was made possible with money from the Berlin mayor’s office/Staatskanzlei

Kulturelle Angelegenheiten, and other cultural institutions): they are so busy with video play,

deconstruction, architecture, film projections etc., that they forget the all important art of

story-telling.

It would be interesting to see “Stella” in a staging by Peter Lund, himself a fabulous stage

director, just to see how he would handle the layers of the story.

Stella is a show that can touch an audience deeply. If this were Broadway, you could count

the Neuköllner Oper production as a sort of try-out, after which the creative team would

ideally polish up their work. With a cast like this, it’s definitely worth seeing Stella again,

perhaps with a new, more in-depth finale and a different overture more in-sync with the rest

of the score. And I would definitely like to see Stella in a more coherent – less self-absorbed

– staging. Maybe then it would come across as a truly great and radical work. The story of

Stella Goldschlag deserves such a radical treatment. And the story of Stella Goldschlag

should reach a young audience that learns about the deeply twisted post-war history for the

first time. And no, it doesn’t necessarily have to be hip hop!

The photos in this article are by Robert M, from Berlin.