Music by Paul Abráhám
Folks Operetta 2014 U.S. Premiere.
Directed by Kristen Barrett. Conducted by Anthony Barrese
This jazz-inflected comic operetta was a big hit for composer Paul Abráhám when it opened in Berlin in December 1932 (a month before Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, which prompted Abráhám, a Jew, to leave the country). This long-overdue American premiere by Chicago Folks Operetta—directed by Kristen Barrett and conducted by Anthony Barrese, well-regarded pros on the regional opera circuit—reveals Ball at the Savoy as a musically inventive work that fuses lyrical waltzes with bouncy jazz, sensuous tangos, and even a few hints of Hindemith-style dissonant counterpoint. The libretto (by Fritz Lohner-Beda and Alfred Grünwald, in a new English translation by Gerald Frantzen and Hersh Glagov) mixes operetta sentimentality and screwball comedy in the tale of an aristocrat’s wife who (almost) cheats on her husband in revenge for his supposed infidelity. A farcical subplot involves a Turkish diplomat who falls for a free-spirited American songwriter. Racy stuff for its time, the work is quaint and even a bit sexist now, but a historically significant piece of musical theater nonetheless, and a wonderful vehicle for the superb soprano Alison Kelly as the (almost) unfaithful wife. Frantzen, Kelly’s spouse, is in fine tenor voice as the husband, and the chorus and orchestra are excellent. – Chicago Reader/ Albert Williams