East German regime’s favourite composer dies, aged 101

Guido Masanetz wrote an operetta, In Frisco ist der Teufel (the devil’s in Frisco) that greatly pleased the regime and was staged in almost all the country’s opera houses. He died on Thursday at a great age.

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  • Perhaps now all the collaborators of the Old Regime are gone. Now we have the collaborators of the New Regime. How does that little ditty go again? Oh yeah, “say hello to the new boss, same as the old boss.”

  • I suspect that at some point in the not so distant future there will be renewed interest in the old DDR “heitere Musiktheater” which roughly translates as “joyful music theater.” For one thing, there are odd similarities with the strictures under which the old MGM musicals were created – the requirement that everything be easily approachable, upbeat, energetic, joyful, deeply melodic, a bit jazzy, and have happy ending. The only difference is that the plot should ideally include some sort of corny portrayal of organized labor prevailing over evil capitalists. Ironically, the evil capitalists and the Commie Overlords often had strangely similar views about musical styles, “the people,” and using music theater to benefit their own interests.

    A while back there was an exhibition devoted to DDR Operetta in Munich and Vienna co-curated by Kevin Clarke and Marie-Theres Arnbom, but it was largely overlooked by the German press. There have been countless studies of DDR culture, but its “Heitere Musiktheater” is still neglected probably because it is still too embarrassing. There was a concert performance of “In Frisco…” last summer in Leipzig that probably brought a bit of secret happiness to some of the old timers.

  • The opera is actually called “In Frisco ist der Teufel los”, which roughly translates as “Mayhem in Frisco”. The devil is in the detail … and certainly not in Frisco.

  • Or “All Hell Is Loose in Frisco.” I sometimes wonder why German perceptions of the USA have so often been rather unrealistic, even leading to catastrophic business ventures like T-Mobile in the USA or Mercedes’ purchase of Chrysler. I think an interesting study could be written about German perceptions of other countries, and how false judgments led Germany to unfortunate endeavors, often based on unrealistic beliefs of superiority — the invasion of the Soviet Union being perhaps the most notable example. National Socialism and communism were obvious cognitive filters that led to delusion, but I think there are also cultural values in the Bundesrepublik that shape perceptions in ways that lead to confusion and misunderstanding – the Greek debt crisis being a recent example. I think one of the most basic reasons is that Germany, founded in 1870, is a relatively young country that did not gain the same adeptness at internationalism as the older colonialist and imperial powers. Is there a somewhat closed and naïve view of the world that has had a strong influence on German culture and history? Anyway, just a thought.

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