University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Dostal: Prinzessin Nofretete

08/18/2019 1:00 pm
08/18/2019 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Yes, operetta had its Golden Age, followed by a Silver Age entering the twentieth century. So what ended the life of the genre? Some say it was the advent of talking pictures. Maybe also it was the rise of fascism in Europe that took all the joy out of light operatic entertainment. Between the two world wars the genre lingered on.

The Nazi regime had already taken power when Nico Dostal's Prinzesssin Noffretete premiered at Cologne in 1936. Nofretete is the name the Germans give to that ancient Egyptian icon of beauty Nefertiti, as we call her in English. In the 1930's the famous bust of the Princess of the Nile, dating back to the 14th century BC, was in German hands, since a German archaeologist discovered it at Amarna in 1912. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo laid claim to the bust, but in 1933 Adolf Hitler declared,"I will never surrender the queen's head!".

Nico Dostal (1895-1981) was an Austrian by birth, and one of the last of those composers, along with fellow Austrian Robert Stolz (1880-1975) to specialize in Viennese-style operetta. (Dostal wrote a lot of music for films, too.) Dostal's Nefertiti operetta is not primarily about archaeology. It presents a colorful pageant of tour guides, historians, pharaohs, soothsayers, thieves and palace guards. Prinzessin Nofretete puts them all into the operetta meatgrinder and everything rolls along on Dostal's Nile River of pleasing melody. The action of the lyric stagework switches back and forth from ancient Egypt to our time and involves the requisite operetta-type intrigues.

Prinzessin Nofretete was revived in 2017 at the Musicalische Komodie Leipzig. Stefan Klingele directs the chorus and orchestra of Leipzig's musical comedy theater. The Leipzig-based record label Rondeau released Prinzessin Nofretete in 2017 on two compact discs.