What you will (definitely want to go see)

Amelie Niermeyer’s Was ihr wollt (that’s Twelfth Night, to my American and British readers) at the Residenztheater: The show opens with a man alone upstage, strumming his guitar and singing. Suddenly, the wall behind him begins to rotate, advancing towards the front of the stage… Is that a steamroller? It looks like a steamroller. He moves forward, avoiding being flattened. Just when it seems he’ll be forced off the edge of the stage, the steamroller stops. A crack appears in it, and a woman comes flying out, spitting out water and examining her bedraggled clothing. She only speaks German and the guitarist only speaks English, but they seem to understand each other and quickly reach an agreement. He reluctantly doffs his jumper, trousers, and boots, accepting her stained skirt and heels in exchange.

A fool (Ian Fisher), a guitar, and a steamroller. Photo copyright: Thomas Dashuber.
A fool (Ian Fisher), a guitar, and a steamroller. Photo copyright: Thomas Dashuber.

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Getting orientated in Marburg

Orientation for Fulbright students was in Marburg this year. I admit, to my shame, that even when I was there, I didn’t quite know where Marburg was—only that it took five hours to get there by train from Munich. Thanks to Google Maps, you can be better informed.

The red marker is on Munich, and the black line leads north-west to Marburg.
The red marker is on Munich, and the black line leads north-west to Marburg.

It seemed a bit silly to travel so far for what was essentially a one-day orientation, but since the Fulbright Commission paid the travel, hotel, and food costs, I suppose I can’t complain.

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What Schubert opera?

Franz Schubert actually wrote some operas. They just didn’t succeed. (In fact, only one was even performed in his lifetime.) Kammeroper München’s current production isn’t one of them, though; rather, it’s a pastiche set to Schubert’s music. The words are by Dominik Wilgenbus (with a lot of acknowledged borrowing from famous German poets), and the story is that of Kaspar Hauser. If, like me, you’re not particularly well-versed in quasi-historical German folk legends, here’s the story of Kaspar Hauser: A boy, around sixteen years old, turns up in Nuremburg in 1828, bearing two letters. He has a one-phrase repertoire, “I want to be a cavalryman like my father,” and supposedly has been kept in an isolated room for most of his life. Rumors circle that he is secretly related to the royalty of Baden, and several high-profile nobles take an interest in his case. In 1833, he is killed. Some claim it was to prevent his true identity from being discovered; others, that he stabbed himself to revive public interest in his story.

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Teamtheater’s Cyrano is a joke

I wouldn’t dare to name a favorite play these days, but for a long time Cyrano de Bergerac was the clear winner. An impossible hero, swashbuckling swordfights, silly cameos (hi, d’Artagnan!), witty wordplay, swoon-inducing romance, and a nice dose of crushing tragedy—what more could a girl want? So I was pretty excited to see it yet again in Teamtheater’s three-person version. Unfortunately, the Cyrano they put on was not the play I know and love.

Teamtheater’s show has a lot of the same words as Rostand’s romance, but it belongs to a different genre. You see, this Cyrano is a farce. You can tell the moment you walk into the theatre—the awkwardly phallic set full of drawers and compartments hint at the door-slamming that is to come. The opening isn’t terribly subtle, either, with Cyrano (Antonio da Silva) being “born” (somersaulting onto the stage), learning to walk, and discovering his nose, complete with clownish sound effects.

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Violetta Valery & The Imaginary Friends

My parents first took me to the theatre when I was two years old, and I have been a regular audience member ever since. I would guess that I’ve seen between 300 and 500 productions in my life. I don’t say that to brag; I say it so you can grasp the full meaning of any superlatives I use in my reviews. All clear? Good. Then I can tell you that last night’s La Traviata at Teamtheater was without a doubt the strangest show I have ever seen.

Take Moulin Rouge. Throw some of Verdi’s music back in. Move it to the present. Make Violetta the only character. Imagine that, and you might get a sense of this pop/rock/country/metal cabaret put on by Violetta Valery (Johanna Weiske) and her band ‘The Imaginary Friends.’ The strangest thing about it all is not the hoop skirt made of tree branches or the bowl of blood she pours on her head or even the death-metal ‘O mio rimorso’ complete with a smashed guitar. The strangest thing is that it sort of works.

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Synagogue Security

There’s exactly one (small) non-orthodox synagogue in all of Bavaria, so choosing a synagogue for this year was pretty easy. After one Shabbat, I can confidently say that it’s a wonderful synagogue, too, with welcoming members, a charismatic rabbi, and lots of singing (albeit with tunes that differ from the ones I grew up with).

But something surprised me about my first encounter with Judaism in Munich: the security. There have been a lot of news articles recently about rising anti-Semitism in Europe, so I suppose it makes sense that Jewish communities are being careful, but it was nonetheless unexpected.

Beth Shalom does not publish the location of their services online. To be told where to go, you have to contact their office and send them a copy of your passport. Despite that precaution, there is a police car with officers stationed outside the building all service, every service. This makes for a somewhat intimidating initial impression!

I’m wondering whether the high level of security is due to past incidents, threats, or simply local policy. Does anyone know whether similar precautions are normal in other European cities?