Chicago imports Fiddler from Germany (why?)

Chicago imports Fiddler from Germany (why?)


norman lebrecht

February 02, 2022

Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced its 2022/23 Season:

Fiddler on the Roof
Don Carlos
Le Comte Ory
Hansel and Gretel

The musical Fiddler on the Roof has been imported from the Komische Oper Berlin in a production by its Australian director Barrie Kosky.

America, it appears, no longer makes its own.




  • pjl says:

    Komische Oper is my favourite opera house; Kosky is a genius. Few Americans will have seen the production so why not import it????

    • Tiredofitall says:

      I was about to say “Kosky is a genius” as well. Thanks for beating me to it. New York audiences (well, Brooklyn Academy…) would go crazy over his Die Perlen der Cleopatra and La Vie Parisienne. Great news for Chicago.

  • I will go to Chicago because I was unable to see it in Berlin and missed the broadcast from the Komische Oper, which is quite famous for its earlier Fiddler production under Walter Felsenstein. I believe a European/German Fiddler is generally more authentic in feeling, language and ‘geschmack.” For me, Kosky is a hero because he openly brought back a taste of real Yiddish culture to a land that is guilty of its destruction throughout Europe. I guess I’m talking about the “echt” thing and for me Kosky is echt.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    A co-production is usually more economic than doing one on their own and particularly as the production had such a high reputation and of course Kosky at the helm.

    • HugoPreuß says:

      Agreed, co-productions happen all the time. Currently the Met’s Rigoletto is co-produced with the Berlin State Opera. So, no problem at all! Unless… Unless some people see a problem in the connection with the “Fiddler” and its Jewish topics and the word “German”. But that objection, in 2022, would be pure prejudice, wouldn’t it?

  • IntBaritone says:

    oof – that season…

  • M Linklater says:

    You left out some items: “The Factotum”, “Proximity”, and “West Side Story”. It reads like a season looking for a purpose.

  • music lover says:

    Why not?

  • James Weiss says:

    Why is an opera company doing TWO Broadway musicals while presenting NO Mozart, Puccini, Strauss, or Wagner? What has happened to this once great company? This is sad and pathetic.

  • Dave says:

    Pretty disingenuous when you’ve neglected to mention two other productions of entirely new American operas. Not to mention for an old work like Fiddler is it really in the best interest of creativity to limit the production teams to the country of origin? Now as to the season as a whole, I agree, pretty yawn inducing

  • psq says:

    In Berlin we are extremely lucky to have Barrie Kosky for 10 years as Artistic Director of the Komische Oper (KOB), ending at the end of this season. We could see at least half a dozen of his productions every season. Some are Premieres and other are in the repertory. A Fiddler of the Roof is in the repertory. Some Premieres are co-productions from the word go, e.g., Eugen Onegin, a coproduction with Zuerich. A Fiddler is not a co-production. Travelling to another opera house presumably means the management in the second house thinks it is worthwhile to show it. It is cheaper, of course, and there is no guarantee that another Fiddler made from scratch would be a success at all.

    Kosky is very consistent in putting on interesting productions during his entire tenure as Artistic Director in KOB. In baseball term he has a batting average of 0.7-0.8. Another in-house Artistic Director, in contrast to the free lancers that are helicoptered in for single productions, had perhaps an even more impressive record, was Walter Felsenstein in his time also in KOB. Not everyone of their corn pops, but their less successful works couldn’t get over the high bar set by their own previous successes.

    Three recent KOB productions that have or will travel are Eugene Onegin, The Magic Flute and now Fiddler. I have seen all of them, and more than once. Lucky me because I live just down the road from KOB. Onegin had 5-stars reviews from local and international critics. The Magic Flute is an absolutely unique piece of theatre- an animation assisted Magic Flute. When I saw it, Alan Clayton was the fresh voice Tamino. This Magic Flute has been done in 7 US cities, 30 cities all over the world, has been seen by 700,000 people- statistics according to Kosky. Now Chicago is going to see Fiddler. Lucky Chicago because they have Kosky productions in successive season- this season Magic Flute, next season Fiddler.

    I have seen Felsenstein’s Fiddler decades ago. The image from it that has remained undimmed, just before the final curtain when the stage was abandoned because every character was forced to abandon the shtetl, was an origami dove hung from the stage rafter. Kosky’s Fiddler couldn’t bring out that kind of melancholy as a final punch, but it has other well thought out coup de theatre. Since his grandparents came from a shtetl in Belarus, Kosky has the credential for Fiddler.

    But … for me the one Fiddler that stood out, above Felsenstein’s and Kosky’s, was the off-Broadway production in Yiddish that I saw in 2019:

    Now that one ought to travel!

  • Piston1 says:

    His “Magic Flute” was a total disaster, but let’s hope this venture bears sweeter fruit.

    • Actually I found it to be an ingenious solution to the enormous difficulties of a backstage’s close quarters during Covid. Only the cartoon figures were in danger of catching the bug! I have seen “Flute” frequently in the Midwest and I’ve enjoyed the wild variety of approaches. The opera will be back soon enough.

  • steve orlowski says:

    Don Carlo in the original 5 act version in French. I will see all five performances.

  • Michael McGrath says:

    What an odd conclusion: America can’t make its own. Perhaps this is a cost-effective alternative for Chicago? And: What’s wrong with importing a great Koskie production? Many countries share, co-produce, productions …. Or is the fact that it originates in Germany the problem?

  • Julien says:

    All in all, 6 operas, 3 musicals.
    In Innsbruck (pop. 130.000) you get this season 7 operas and 2 musicals. I’m amazed that a big city like Chicago offers so little.