This past summer I was invited to be an International Judge at the Second Vladimir Kurochkin International Competition of Young Artists of Operetta and Musicals in Yetatrinburg, Russia. The contest took place from September 25th to October 1, 2008.
When I learned that I could fly direct from Vienna to Yekatrinburg, I decided to finally visit Vienna. I have been involved with Light Opera Works for almost 30 years and had never been to Vienna. It was time.
In Vienna I was able to stay with my friend Suzanne Kerry and her family. She is an American who has made her living as an actress and singer in Vienna for many years. Through her contacts she was able to get me tickets to The Merry Widow at the Volksoper and to “Rebecca”, a new musical by Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay that is literally “burning up” Vienna. (You may remember the Hitchcock film based on the same novel.)
After seeing The Merry Widow performed at the most famous venue for operetta in the world, I believe that Light Opera Works can hold its head high and take great pride in the quality of our work here in Chicago. It is true that the musicians and vocalists at the Volkoper have a special affinity for the works of the composers that brought Vienna such renown in the 19th and early 20th century. But in many aspects of the production of operetta, including: scenery, costumes, staging, choreography, and the work of our singing actors and orchestra, I can honestly say that Chicago artists are as good as, if not better than their Viennese counterparts.
We cannot match a state supported operation like the Volksoper in terms of facilities, rehearsal space, number of performances etc. But in terms of what the audience sees on the stage when they attend a performance, Chicago can hold its head high.