“And the curtain, hello!” – Barry Koski recounts his life
Following in Kermit’s footsteps
03/13/2023 by Stephen Frey
Barry Koski is a jack of all trades. The director is just as at home on the opera stage as he is on pop culture, musicals, or the exotic scene. Now Kosky has submitted his autobiography. In it he explains, among other things, what he learned from the Muppets and why his grandmother was his “teacher”.
Image source: © Doris Spiekermann-Klaas TSP
“And the curtain, hello!” – It is no coincidence that Barry Koski chose this slogan from The Muppet Show as the title of his book. Because one of the most prominent sentences in it is the answer to the question of where he gets his inspiration from as an artist and artistic director.
First the Muppets, then Grandma
Neither Max Reinhart nor Walter Felsenstein confirmed the Australian in the BR-KLASSIK interview. No, there’s only one source: Kermit – always kind of Jewish and gay to me. I learned all about theater from the Muppets before I was in theatre. Backstage, sideshows, everything goes fine and the curtain rises. What Kermit Like a director, producer, and stage manager should do that half hour, so I learned a lot from it. I was totally obsessed with Kermit and Fuzzy Bear and especially Miss Piggy and that was good school.”
I was her student and she was my teacher
Barry Koski on his grandmother
A stunning statement by one of the most successful opera directors of our time. The entire book is similarly funky and refreshing. It keeps what the subtitle promises: “A Life With Salome, Marisa, Miss Piggy & Co.” Even life with opera, operetta and music. Barry Koski knows no boundaries of genre. This is probably also due to the fact that he was raised in Australia, where there is no distinction between light music and serious music. To his Jewish-Hungarian grandmother it was “the desert of the Anglo-Saxon middle class without any culture”.
She is one of the heroines of this book, a great singer who has been dragging her grandson to the opera since he was seven: “She gave me an education you couldn’t get at any university,” Koski writes. “I was her student and she was my teacher, a very special professor. But her whole style, always dressed in Chanel, with her perfume and her jewels, that melancholic melancholy, all had a great influence on me, when I was young and then as an artist.”
Read our review of “Le nozze di Figaro” at the Vienna State Opera, staged by Barry Koskey.
Kosky mixes genres
book cover | Image source: © Suhrkamp-Verlag AG
This is Barry Koski’s second school. And just as he blends U and E’s as a director, his memoir is equally colorful: Seven Chapters—named after figures from the world of musical theater. They are essays about related works and at the same time autobiographical explorations of his Australian childhood, his Jewish ancestors from Hungary, Poland and Belarus, and his later career.
There are only two male protagonists who are not coincidentally also German: Hans Sachs, whose class Koski works through Wagner’s shock during a production of Meistersinger in Bayreuth. And Mackie Messer, who is the endearing Kurt Weill, is for Kosky a typical case of Germany’s still problematic relationship to Judaism: “Of course you can go to the Jewish Museum, to the Holocaust Memorial, but we also have to remember the art” We also have to celebrate what was in the previous! And this was not seen as a Jewish culture, but as a German culture, an Austrian culture. You shouldn’t separate them and they weren’t apart at the time. This is important to me.”
An insight into Kosky’s personal modus operandi
Kosky always starts from his personal point of view and that makes the book worth reading. Even his path in life is full of adventures: from Melbourne through Vienna to Berlin. Then a now legendary director at the Komische Oper there, he began an unprecedented operetta renaissance with Paul Abraham’s Ball im Savoy. His homosexuality and the strangeness of his products are also problematic. Especially the insights into his personal way of working are revealing — and deeply entertaining. A touch of puppet show haunts the pages of his memoirs, just like his emotionally gripping works.
Information about the book
“And the curtain, hello!” by Barry Koski It will be published by Suhrkamp Verlag on March 13, 2023. Bound, 250 pages, cost 26 euros.
Broadcasting: “Leporello” on March 13 from 4:05 p.m on BR-CLASSIC
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