Der Teufel auf Erden, Operetta by Franz von Suppé
Der Teufel auf Erden has entertained operetta lovers for over a century now. The intriguing score by genre master Franz von Suppé and the humorous and politically charged libretto by Karl Juin and Julius Hopp prove to be a potent combination. The premiere at Vienna’s Carltheater on 5 January 1878 paved the way for Der Teufel auf Erden (or The Devil on Earth in English) to enter the operetta pantheon, albeit with some delay. This season, Volksoper Wien invites this remarkable work to play on home soil in Vienna once more.
The plot of Der Teufel auf Erden is appropriately devilish. A revolt is burning in Hell where a group of progressive devils demand a series of societal reforms, such as a ban on corporal punishment, parliamentary democracy, and freedom of the press. In 1878’s Austro-Hungarian Empire, such demands would be seen as outlandish; in Hell at any point in time, they would be downright shameless and unacceptable. But while some devils fight for social change, their overlord Satan is nowhere to be found. His loyal servant Ruprecht departs on an exciting journey on Earth where he must locate his master and bring him back in order to quash the seething revolution. On his quest, he is joined by the angel Rupert. Together, the odd couple navigates a number of comical and exciting situations. As typical for classic operettas, plenty of disguise, misdirection, humour and plot twists send Der Teufel auf Erden to a bombastic resolution.
Even though it shines with similarly high musical and lyrical qualities as von Suppé’s other great hits, such as Boccaccio and Fatinitza, Der Teufel auf Erden was not an instant hit. The hilarious script and the inspired tunes could not make up for the incendiary political messages that the Emperor did not take lightly. Nowadays, considerably freer from monarchist conservatism and political censorship, we can enjoy an unencumbered look at one of operetta’s great examples. With the talented cast of Volksoper Wien, the Devil walks the Earth again!