Despite being one of the most successful and influential operas of all time, Ernst Krenek’s Jonny spielt auf (1926) is now something of a stage novelty. We are inclined to assume, perhaps, that the operatic genre it spawned, the Zeitoper, contained the seeds of its own obsolescence. As a new production at the Gärtnerplatztheater in Munich demonstrates, however, the work retains a capacity to shock and inform, as well as to entertain.
The Gärtnerplatztheater has a particular reason to be interested in the work, for it was here, in 1928, that its Munich première caused an infamous Nazi-inspired riot. The audience that greeted the new production was reminded of the furore on entering the auditorium. A projection across the stage curtain reproduced part of an original protest placard, which described the opera as the ‘Die Schande von München’ (the shame of Munich).