Folks Operetta Presents FORBIDDEN OPERA: RECLAIMING THE LOST MUSIC OF THE SECOND WORLD WARFolks Operetta is proud to announce its upcoming concert Forbidden Opera: Reclaiming the lost operas of the Second World War, directed by Folks Operetta Artistic Director Gerald Frantzen and written by Frantzen and Hersh Glagov, at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, 9603 Woods Dr. Skokie, IL. The production, a multi-media concert with four singers and a small instrumental trio, will take place Friday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased by visiting

As part of their Reclaimed Voices series, Folks Operetta takes a look at the composers of opera that time has forgotten. Before the Second World War, central Europe was home to a rich and varied musical culture. Composers worked in many different styles, ranging from traditional to late romantic to ultramodern. This atmosphere of creative ferment came to an end with the rise of the Third Reich. During the Third Reich Jewish composers, as well as any composers whose music did not suit the Nazis, were banned and labeled degenerate. Some of the Jewish composers, (Korngold, Gál, Wellesz) were able to emigrate and would ply their craft in their newly adopted homelands; others (Ullmann, Klein, Schulhoff) perished in the Holocaust. Still others (Krenek) were targeted, not because of their ethnicity, but because the Nazis considered their work "degenerate."

These composers all excelled at writing opera. Many of their works for the operatic stage were very successful and influential in their time. However, for all of these composers, whether they survived the war or not, the post war years inflicted a further indignity; there was no one to champion their music after the war. Their music deserves to be heard and enjoyed by a new generation.

The newest installment in our Reclaimed Voices series, Forbidden Opera will present memorable excerpts from some of these operas and tell the stories of their composers.

This multi-media event will feature four singers, a small trio, a narrator and video projections.

Singers include: William Roberts, Jenny Schuler, Alison Kelly and Gerald Frantzen

Instrumentalists include: Anatoliy Torchinskiy, piano. Agnieska Likos, Violin. Patrycja Likos, Cello with video projections design by Liviu Pasare.

The Korngold Initiative

The Korngold Initiative is a two-year fundraising campaign to bring Erich Wolfgang Korngold's rarely-heard opera, Die Kathrin (Kathrin), to Chicago for its American premiere. The goal is to raise $150,000 to employ local singers, actors, musicians, artists and designers for a new production of the opera at the Athenaeum Theatre in October 2020. Folks Operetta's version will be faithful to Korngold's original intention to set the show in occupied Germany following the First World War. In keeping with Folks Operetta's mission to make shows accessible, we will translate the libretto and perform the opera in English.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was one of the most unjustly neglected composers of the twentieth century. A child prodigy, he was praised by Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss and considered by many to be the successor to Mozart and Beethoven. His father, the prominent Viennese music critic Julius Korngold, was careful to nurture his son's remarkable talent, securing composition lessons for the boy with Alexander Zemlinsky. Erich Wolfgang Korngold already had a sizeable body of work to his credit when he burst onto the world stage with his opera, Die tote Stadt, in 1923, at the tender age of 19.

Die Kathrin was Korngold's last opera. He began working on it in 1933, when he was engaged in re-orchestrating some of the classic operettas of Johann Strauss Jr. and Leo Fall. A first performance, scheduled for 1938 in Vienna, was cancelled. This opera by a Jewish composer, depicting a love story between a German woman and a French soldier in French-occupied Saarland, was destined to run afoul of Nazi censors. The opera received its European premiere in Sweden in 1939, where it was given an overtly harsh and anti-Semitic review. To make matters worse, Die Kathrin was almost lost forever when the Nazis broke into Korngold's villa to destroy his work. Michael Haas, in his book, "Forbidden Music, "writes: "Weinberger [music publisher] employees broke into the cellar, recovered what was left of the manuscript, and returned it to Korngold by interleaving sheets between pages of Beethoven, Mozart, and other acceptably 'Aryan' composers and posting them to the composer in California."

Die Kathrin was finally given its Viennese premiere in 1950, but ran for only eight performances. In 1997, the BBC Orchestra created a complete recording of the work.

Since then, the work has seldom been performed. Its music, however, is compelling and masterfully written. It deserves another look. Folks Operetta is uniquely suited to the task of reviving Korngold's masterpiece.


Gerald Frantzen is the artistic director of Folks Operetta. He has sung with the Lyric Opera of Chicago chorus for 9 years, where he made his solo debut in the opera Eugene Onegin (2008). His opera roles include Giove (Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria- NPR broadcast), Damon (Acis and Galatea), 2nd Nazarene (Salome) with the Glimmerglass Opera; Ernesto (Don Pasquale) with Natchez Opera; Prunier (La Rondine) with Sarasota Opera; Der Kellner (Arabella) with Santa Fe Opera and Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) with Ridge Light Opera.

Frantzen has been a frequent soloist with Handel Week where he has performed two Messiahs and played a leading role in the Chicago premiere of G. F. Handel's Rodelinda. He was also the tenor soloist in Bach's Magnificat and The Mozart Requiem.

Since 2006 he has translated over 17 different operettas with Folks Operetta dramaturge Hersh Glagov; presenting 15 American premieres. His operetta credits Arizona Lady (2010 U.S. Premiere); The Circus Princess (U.S. premiere); Ball at the Savoy (2014 American premiere); The Girl in the Train (American premiere); Springtime (American premiere); (Peter and Paul in the Land of Nod- American premiere); Thespis (World premiere); Gypsy Love, Yeomen of the Guard; Duchess of Chicago; Pirates of Penzance; The Student Prince; The Merry Widow, The Gondoliers; Song of Norway; as well as Madame Pompadour. In 2013 Frantzen wrote the critically-acclaimed concert "Operetta in Exile" with Glagov.

His international musical theater credits include Jekyll & Hyde in Bremen, Germany; the role of Piangi (The Phantom of the Opera - Hal Prince, director) in Hamburg, Germany and The Russian (Chess) in Bergen, Norway. Regional credits include Dorsey and the Young Confederate Soldier (Parade-which won 8 Jeff Citations), Sir Harry (Once Upon a Mattress), Tony (West Side Story), Baron (Grand Hotel) and Charlie (Brigadoon). He can also be heard with "The Three Waiters," which has won the award for Best Corporate Event over six times.

Film credits include "Return of the Night Porter" as an editor, which won the Grand Prix at the Karlovy Film Festival in Europe. Recordings include John Frantzen Compositions and a musical theater collection called Another Autumn (recorded with Alison Kelly; The Rose of Stambul by Leo Fall on the Naxos Recording Label. Frantzen has also sung with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and The Grant Park chorus.


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, 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 Folks Operetta concentrates on producing both Viennese and American operettas from the early 20th century. Our mission also includes recovering the lost operas of Jewish composers who suffered or perished during The Second World War.

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