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Chicago Folks Operetta Announces 'War and remembrance' Season

Chicago Folks Operetta (CFO) is proud to announce its 2017 season titled "War and Remembrance." Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I, the season includes the fully staged Chicago premiere of Kurt Weill's anti-war operetta Johnny Johnson, June 24 - July 9, "Kurt Weill and Paul Green: The Story Behind Johnny Johnson," a lecture with performances featuring Weill Scholar Tim Carter, May 24 and the CFO premiere of a concert called Operetta and The Great War, June 28 and 29. All performances take place at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Specific details for each event are listed below. Tickets are on sale and available at (773) 327-5252

The 2017 Chicago Folks Operetta season includes:

Main Stage Production

Johnny Johnson

June 24 - July 9

Music by Kurt Weill

Libretto by Paul Green

Based on the novel The Good Soldier Schwejk by Jaroslav Hasek

Edited by Tim Carter for the Kurt Weill Foundation

CFO version edited by Gerald Frantzen

Directed by George Cederquist

Music conducted by Anthony Barrese

Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

Opening Night: Saturday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Performance schedule: Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $40 for adults; $35 for seniors (65 years and older), $30 for students (with student ID) and $20 for children ages 12 years old and younger.

Chicago Folks Operetta's 2017 season kicks off with Kurt Weill's and Paul Green's witty anti-war operetta Johnny Johnson. It is World War I and the United States, having pledged to remain neutral, is pulled into the fight in order to make the world safe for democracy "over there." Lowly American tombstone cutter Johnny Johnson, has been persuaded to enlist in the U.S. Army both by his sweetheart, Minny Belle Tompkins, and by President Woodrow Wilson's promise of "a war to end all wars." But confronted with the horrors of the trenches in France, he is outraged at the absurdity of it all, and with a hint of laughing gas, he fools the Allied generals into calling a cease-fire. Johnson is arrested, shipped back to America, and locked up in a lunatic asylum for his "peace monomania." After 20 years in prison, Johnson is released and makes a living selling handmade toys as the trumpets of war once more sound in the distance.

Kurt Weill, like many other European operetta composers of Jewish origins, was forced out of Germany with the arrival of the Third Reich in the early 1930's. The show, written in 1936, was "pure Weill," with its anti-war theme and music that drew largely upon his unique orchestrations of his earlier European works. Johnny Johnson was developed in conjunction with the famed Group Theater headed by Lee Strasberg in New York City and ran for 68 performances at the 44th Street Theater. With a book and lyrics by Paul Green, the show was loosely based on Jaroslav Hasek's novel the The Good Soldier Svejk, and its pacifist take on the First World War. The show's anti-war theme resonates throughout and was indeed a brave undertaking by Weill. The name Johnny Johnson was derived from the American First World War casualty lists, as it was the name that appeared most frequently. Although rarely performed, Johnny Johnson is considered an important piece of the American musical theater and operetta canon.

The production, with a 15-piece orchestra, features singers from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony and Grant Park choruses, as well as up and coming performers from throughout Chicagoland. Chicago Folks Operetta Music Director Anthony Barrese, artistic director of Opera Southwest, conducts the orchestra with George Cederquist, Chicago Folks Operetta resident director, directing the production.

"The year 2017 is the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. entry into the First World War," said Artistic Director Gerald Frantzen, "With wars currently raging in the Middle East and new provocations by the former Cold War power Russia and in North Korea; Johnny Johnson's anti-war and pacifist leanings are more relevant than ever. Our Midwest premiere commemorates this country's involvement in "the war to end all wars" and the lessons to be learned from aggression on an international scale."

Performers include: Kaitlin Galetti, Robert Morrissey, Christine Steyer, William Dwyer, Gabriel di Gennaro, Maxwell Seiftert, Jonathan Zeng, Teaira Burge, Joshua Lee Smith, Nich Radcliffe and Mary Lutz.

Production team includes: Anthony Barrese, conductor; George Cederquist, director; Eric Barry, co-lighting designer; Josh Prisching, technical director and Adam Veness, co-lighting designer.

A Lecture Featuring Music by Chicago Folks Operetta

"Kurt Weill and Paul Green: The Story Behind Johnny Johnson"

May 24

Directed by Gerald Frantzen

Music accompanied by Anatolyi Torchinskyi

Lecture by Tim Carter

Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

Performance schedule: Wednesday, May 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $20

Performers include the singers Alison Kelly, Mary Lutz, William Dwyer and Gerald Frantzen and on piano Anatolyi Torchinskyi

Chicago Folks Operetta welcomes Kurt Weill scholar Tim Carter to Chicago for a lecture and performance. Carter, one of the most acclaimed Weill scholars, shares with the audience information on the creation and history of Weill and Green's Johnny Johnson. The evening also includes performances of selections from Johnny Johnson and other Kurt Weill songs that showcase the operetta's unique sound.

A Multi-Media Concert

Operetta and The Great War

June 28 and June 29

Directed by Gerald Frantzen

Music accompanied by Anatolyi Torchinskyi

Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

Performance schedule: Wednesday, June 28 and Thursday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $30

The second offering in the 2017 season is Operetta and The Great War, a multi-media concert looking at how the operetta industry survived The Great War. Featuring performances of many of the forgotten World War I operettas, as well as examining the role of operetta in wartime propaganda efforts, Operetta and The Great War includes the music of Emmerich Kálmán, Leo Fall, Edmund Eysler, Harold Fraser-Stimson, Reynaldo Hahn, Leo Ascher, Henri Christine, Jerome Kern and others. At the height of its popularity when the First World War broke out, operetta found itself in the unusual position of being a vehicle for the propaganda of nations. Whether Axis or Allied, the operetta stars
and composers of the time joined their nation's war effort delivering patriotic messages and raising
money. During the late years of the war, the thin line that once separated operetta and cabaret was breeched, as the political song writing so common to the cabaret stage now found voice in operetta. Operetta would not only survive, but also thrive during one of the most destructive wars in history.
This original multi-media presentation was written by CFO Artistic Director Gerald Frantzen and includes a host, four singers and a small chamber group accompanied by images of artists and photographs from The Great War.


Chicago Folks Operetta is a 501(c)(3) non-profit theater company devoted to the nurturing of live operetta through articulate and dynamic productions. In the belief that the arts serve to illuminate the human condition, Chicago Folks Operetta is dedicated to the revival and development of operetta, a popular and accessible form of music and theater for general audiences. In particular, the Chicago Folks Operetta concentrates on producing both Viennese and American operettas from the early 20th century.

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