The Emperor’s New Clothes

For a decade now, the Komische Oper Berlin has been presenting high-quality productions of operas for children…but by no means only for children. The Emperor’s New Clothes, which premiered on Sunday in a deliriously silly production by Lydia Steier ranks among the best, along with Mikropolis and The Snow Queen . This was the world premiere of a 1962 work by the Czech composer Milos Vacek that was censored by the communist authorities. The music itself is rather tame, which leads one to believe that the censors objected to the subversive motifs in the libretto based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic. The music is in a fun and lightly satirical vein that sends-up operatic conventions but remains closer in spirit to musical-theater than anything else. The KOB has gone all out with the staging whose chief delight are the wackily ingenious costumes of Alfred Mayerhofer that look like a cross between Jean-Paul Gaultier and Dr. Seuss. The singing actors are uniformly delightful in their exaggerated silliness and mirth, especially the emperor of Carsten Sabrowski, his spoiled daughter Princess Culifinda (Cornelia Zink), and the imperial shirt-ironer played by Christoph Späth. Special mention goes to the emperor’s dog, played by a terrified-looking pomeranian credited in the cast-list as “Nala.”


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