Koproduktion mit der UdK Berlin
KAUF DIR EIN KIND!
Musical von Thomas Zaufke (Musik) und Peter Lund (Text)
Inszenierung: Peter Lund
Musikalische Leitung: Hans-Peter Kirchberg/Tobias Bartholmeß
Choreographie: Neva Howard
Bühnenbild: Daria Kornysheva
Kostüme: Daria Kornysheva
Uraufführung am 21. Juni 2007, 20 Uhr
by Paul Murphy
Neukölln is possibly the biggest city district in Berlin. It borders on East Berlin, has a reputation as a hard slum district with a big immigrant community, a vibrant hub of ethnicity, art, rather like Brixton or Lewisham in London. I´d heard of the area through the instrumental track Neukölln on David Bowie´s album Heroes. Bowie lived in Neukölln in the 1970s, before the fall of Communism, also making the film Christiane F - wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo – we are the children from Zoo Station. Christiane, a child drug addict living around the train station Zoo, sells her Bowie album to buy drugs just before her final collapse. Cheap exploitation of popular social concerns by pop stars seems like part of a different, fundamentally more innocent era, when celebrities actually deemed to be concerned about the ordinary, suffering people out there. Today it might be rolled into a pop catharsis on a hip hop album, but doesn´t seem to be the kind of thing that rock celebrities do much of anymore, probably because audiences have grown up, become older, wiser, even more cynical, knowing.
Neukölln Opera differs from the operas, theatres in Unter den Linden, Mitte by being a believable, modern, relevant venue for rock opera, pop musicals. The DeutschStaatOper in Unter den Linden performs usual re-treads of Wagner, Mozart, the rest of the conventional canon of great opera in the Western tradition, but light years away from Bowie or The Beatles. Quite simply this is a failure of the imagination, for Bowie, The Beatles, represent continuity of that Western tradition from Bach to the present day. That is why it is good to see that Oper Neukölln is at least attempting to make operas, musicals that are new, relevant, contemporary, trying to make sense of what comes after Fidelio, Parsifal. But it also marks a point of departure from the obviously political socialist realist theatre of the Volksbuhne.
The opera\musical Kauf dir ein Kind (you buy a boy) by Zaufke, Lund, binds together a variety of scatological or surreal threads. Firstly the idea of buying a robotic child, playing on the disharmonies of a juvenile Frankenstein´s monster, being mothered by a prostitute, underlines the dichotomy presented by social relations built, fostered on money. Hence it becomes possible to buy a child, rather like buying a new laptop, without many of the problems presented by real children, handy, convenient, easy to chuck away. Perhaps Zaufke, Lund don´t really try to explore some of the nastier implications of their idea, which seems to be a further re-tread of ideas of cloning or the creation of superior beings by interference with ´nature´ (I might say Master Race – okay I´ve said it.). Interference with ´nature´, represented by prostitutes who abrogate ´normal´ values of wedlock, family, love or familial duty, therefore ultimately having to buy a boy, since nothing exists that cannot be bought, including love, conception, water, air, light. The logical conclusion of a world where profit, money dominate, control people rather than those things being controlled by people. But the overall concept echoes, reverberates throughout German (or Germanic) culture, from Mary Shelley´s novel to the robotic Maria in Fritz Lang´s film Metropolis and beyond.
The overall conceptualisation of this musical wasn´t intellectual, intended to be accessible, rather than abstracted or thesis-like, focused on the songs performed with enthusiasm, aplomb by the cast, the backing ensemble of musicians. There was little intimation of the alienation effect that Brecht\Weill sought to foreground at the expense of narrative coherence, entertainment values, the suturing of audience with text. Audiences or writers, performers, have rejected those strategies, for the moment anyway. The central point is that a largish audience enjoyed an entertaining musical rather than being blasted with an abstracted intellectualisation. The music wasn´t experimental either, conventional songs giving the piece an off-Broadway feel (there were notably many Americans in the audience) but this musical wasn´t derived from Broadway sources, purely a creation of Zauke\Lund. Germans creating a musical in the Mozartian tradition of singspiele, light or comic opera.
Overall OperNeuKölln has much to recommend it to those who have explored the sites, opera houses and theatres around Unter den Linden, want to find more about Berlin culture outside the touristic city centre.