A Satirical Assault on Fear and Fascism in City Opera Vancouver’s World Premiere of
— BERLIN: The Last Cabaret —
Set in Nazi Germany, political cabaret reminds audiences of the perils of polarizing rhetoric and the subversive power of art.
City Opera Vancouver presents the world premiere of the political satire BERLIN: The Last Cabaret (BERLIN) from January 23–26, 2020 at Performance Works. Set in Nazi Germany on July 13, 1934, the darkly humorous production takes place the day of Adolf Hitler’s national broadcast claiming responsibility for the “Night of the Long Knives” — a horrific political purge and extrajudicial execution of more than 85 members of the Sturmabteilung (SA). Directed and co-created by Alan Corbishley, in association with Sound the Alarm: Music/Theatre (soundthealarm.ca), and presented with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, BERLIN follows an underground cabaret troupe as they decide whether their love of creative and social freedom is worth the ultimate price. The production is City Opera’s first appearance in the PuSh Festival.
“Responding to growing xenophobia, continued homophobia, and the bending of truth into alternative facts in the United States and at home, this work is an artistic call-to-action and poignant reminder that the atrocities in human history may yet come again,” says Charles Barber, Artistic Director of City Opera. “BERLIN: The Last Cabaret is a tribute to the art and culture of the Weimar Republic, which saw extraordinary developments in the areas of gender studies, gay and lesbian rights, women’s rights, and so much more. With the Republic’s collapse, and the rise of Hitler’s propaganda machine, a nation was forced to believe a platform of lies. We explore that moment of transition, consider how fascism creeps into our lives, and ask what one would do when faced with the choice to stand and fight — or flee for safety.”
A fusion of cabaret and theatre, BERLIN opens with a group of artists learning of a major government announcement. Capitalizing on the moment, the cabaret troupe of five singers decides to throw out their standard musical program in favour of a work of political satire called The Front Page. The new line-up challenges state media, calls out the Nazi classification of gay individuals as “degenerates,” and includes parodic inflection that women are being marginalized — again — under the new regime.
But when the evening post arrives with the explosive news that Hitler ordered the recent “Night of the Long Knives” massacre to stomp out dissent and further solidify his power, the artists must decide to continue with their artistic voices, or save themselves.
The production features original songs from early 20th-century cabarets in Germany, which were banned after the fall of the Republic. A popular form of entertainment, the German kabarett was distinct from the French iteration for its sharp political satire and dark humour. Although kabarett existed in the late 19th century, it wasn’t until after World War I that the genre came into its own, particularly in Berlin.
True to the type of artists found on cabaret stages at the time, BERLIN features a diverse cast of actors, rather than traditional opera singers: Julia Munčs, Meaghan Chenosky, Alen Dominguez, Brent Hirose, and Dan Deorksen. Each performer has a background in music and spoken theatre, and was involved in the creation of their on-stage characters and storylines. The gifted artists will be accompanied on-stage by a four-person band: François Houle, clarinets; Ed Henderson, banjo, ukulele, and guitar; Martin Fisk, percussion; and Roger Parton, keyboard.
BERLIN features a libretto by Joanna Garfinkel, lighting and set design by John Webber, costumes by Christopher David Gauthier, and choreography by Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg.
Tickets from $44.50 at pushfestival.ca/shows/berlin-the-last-cabaret/
City Opera Vancouver (cityoperavancouver.com)
City Opera Vancouver is a professional company that commissions, creates, re-discovers and presents chamber opera. City Opera was organized in 2006 in tandem with efforts to restore the century-old, 650-seat Pantages Theatre in the Downtown Eastside. The company specializes in small forms, intimate eloquence, Canadian themes and artists, and through music tells memorably bold, vivid stories that are relevant to our time and people. City Opera regularly commissions and premieres new Canadian chamber opera, including Fallujah (2012), The Lost Operas of Mozart (2016), and Missing (2017). In 2014, City Opera gave the world premiere of Margaret Atwood’s first opera, Pauline, with music by Tobin Stokes. In 2017, City Opera commissioned and produced, in partnership with Pacific Opera Victoria, the world premiere of Marie Clements’ and Brian Current’s opera Missing. It has since had 22 performances in Vancouver, Victoria, Prince George, and Regina. The company is a registered non-profit society with federal tax status, governed by an elected Board of Directors. City Opera is a member of the Community Arts Council of Vancouver, and a Community Partner of the Canadian Music Centre.
LISTING INFORMATION City Opera Vancouver & PuSh International Performing
Arts Festival present BERLIN: The Last Cabaret
Dates: January 23–25, 2020 at 8pm
January 26, 2020 at 2pm
Post-Show Talkbacks: January 23-25
Ticket Price: $44.50 including fees
Address: Performance Works
1218 Cartwright St
Vancouver, BC V6H 3R8
Tickets & Info: pushfestival.ca/shows/berlin-the-last-cabaret
Media release and image provided by Sarah Ghosh, Murray Paterson Marketing Group. Image Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles Francis Bruguière, Sebastian Droste in a still from the movie, “The Way”, 1923 – 1925, Gelatin silver print