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Kurt Weill’s shot at the Tsar

03 May, 2019 — By Michael White

Kurt Weill. Photo: Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-2005-0119

WRITING a comic opera about murdering the Russian Tsar was probably in questionable taste in 1927, barely 10 years after the atrocity in which the entire royal family were hacked to death. But it didn’t stop Kurt Weill’s The Tsar Wants His Photograph Taken from being a popular success when it was premiered in Weimar Germany.

And though it’s hardly standard repertoire it does occasionally still get done – with a performance coming up in the Bloomsbury Theatre this Saturday, May 4.

It belongs to the genre of Zeitoper, which were short, satirical pieces with music that incorporated jazz and popular dance forms. And, accordingly, tangos and foxtrots abound in the telling of this story – which has a bunch of terrorists trying to shoot the eponymous Tsar with more than a camera when he enters a photographer’s studio.

Fortunately there’s a happy ending. And this rare production, which combines singing and film, is staged by University College London as part of its new Performance Lab initiative, using young singers.

Who knows what the standard will be – but it’s a curiosity worth catching.

The Tsar Wants His Photograph Taken, May 4, 7.30pm, £10, Bloomsbury Theatre, Gordon Street, WC1H OAH. 020 3108 1000,


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