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A new score for the classic Weimar movie Varieté is the latest in Elena Kats-Chernin’s series of film collaborations. The first performance with live orchestra is at a Bozar Cine-concert in Brussels on 15 September with the Belgian National Orchestra.

The German silent movie Varieté by Ewald A. Dupont, with its renowned scenes filmed at Berlin’s Wintergarten vaudeville theatre in the 1920s, receives a new accompanying score from Elena Kats-Chernin. The premiere with live orchestra is at a Bozar Ciné-concert on 15 September in Brussels featuring the Belgian National Orchestra conducted by Dirk Brossé. The film is presented In collaboration with ARTE, ZDF, Bozar and 2eleven music film, with the kind support of the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation.

> Visit the Bozar website

With a running time of 95 minutes, this is the fourth major score Kats-Chernin has created for silent films, a genre to which she has become particularly attracted. Earlier film scores include Victor Sjöström's Körkarlen (The Phantom Carriage, 1921), Billy Wilder and Robert Siodmak's People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag, 1930), and G. W. Pabst's The Devious Path (Abwege, 1928), all created by Kats-Chernin for co-productions by the German/French TV channels ZDF and ARTE. With an output spanning the widest variety of musical forms, from theatre music, ballet and opera to symphonic and keyboard works, Elena Kats-Chernin is one of the most versatile composers at work today.

The artist melodrama Varieté, filmed in 1925 by Ewald André Dupont, was one of the biggest export successes of the Weimar Republic. Oscar winner Emil Jannings (in the role of Boß Huller) and sensational trapeze scenes (including a salto mortale, doubled by the then-famous acrobatic trio Codonas) stunned audiences. In addition, Karl Freund’s innovative camerawork, between expressionism and film noir, earned Varieté an important place in film history. A new version of Varieté, digitally restored by the Friedrich- Wilhelm-Murneau Foundation, premiered at the Berlinale in 2015.

The movie’s plot centres on the famous trapeze artist Boß who, after an accident, can no longer perform. Together with his wife and child, he runs a fairstand in Hamburg’s nightlife district of St Pauli. One day, some sailors bring a young and beautiful girl who starts dancing in his business. Soon Boß falls in love with the girl, named Berta-Marie. Together they flee to Berlin, where they achieve great success as an acrobatic trio with the artist Artinelli in the legendary variety theatre Wintergarten. However, when Boß discovers that Berta-Marie is cheating on him with Artinelli, he becomes furious…

This autumn also brings the premiere of Kats-Chernin’s latest children’s opera, Nils Holgersson’s Wondrous Adventures (Nils Holgerssons wundersame Abenteuer), staged by the Berlin Komische Oper at the Schillertheater, opening on 12 November. This children’s literature classic, by Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf, is being realized for the operatic stage by director Ruth Brauer-Kvam. The fairy tale adventures of the boy who gains a new perspective on the world, shrunken in size and viewing the landscape from the neck of a flying goose, are adapted by librettist Susanne Felicitas Wolf, who has worked with Kats-Chernin on two earlier successful children’s operas at the Komische Oper: Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs (2015) and Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver (2019).

> Visit the Komische Oper website

Australian highlights for Kats-Chernin this autumn include the concert premiere of Human Waves at the Sydney Opera House on 9 September performed by the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and Orchestra under Brett Weymark. The work was first performed on a live stream because of the pandemic in 2020, with the choir pre-recorded in isolation, composer Elena Kats-Chernin and librettist Tamara-Anna Cislowska as piano duo, and Jess Ciampa on percussion. The much-anticipated first concert performance in September, with massed live choir and orchestra, provides a belated centenary celebration for the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.

> Visit the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs website

A further autumn premiere for Kats-Chernin is her new Sarenka Concerto for violin and cello, performed in Melbourne on 27 October by Dale Barltrop, Rachael Tobin and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under Chloe van Soeterstède.

> Visit the Melbourne Symphony website

>  Further information on Work: Varieté

Photo: still from Dupont's film Varieté (© Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung)

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