König Karotte, Operetta by J. Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach was the father and uncrowned king of the operetta, and his talents shine bright in the delightful performance of his classic König Karotte on the stage of the Vienna Volksoper. The witty, allegoric and parodic original French libretto is courtesy of the great Victorien Sardou, who in turn drew inspiration from the German story by E. T. A. Hoffmann. König Karotte now returns to its Germanic roots and hurls the audience into a fairy-tale world of royal intrigue, magic and brewing political dissent. There is one catch: some major characters are vegetables, but the humour is certainly omnivorous.
König Karotte, or King Carrot, follows the troubles of Prince Fridolin XXIV, a monarch who has squandered the kingdom’s fortunes and now seeks to marry for wealth. Princess Kunigunde arrives at the right time, and their romance appears to take off – until the sudden arrival of the mysterious King Carrot. By using his dark magical powers, made even stronger by the evil witch Kalebasse, the strange newcomer makes a fool of Fridolin in front of the royal court and subjects, and only the intervention of Robin, a well-wishing good sorcerer, prevents a lynching. The prince is ousted, and King Carrot assumes the throne, flanked by his band of garden vegetables. Will Fridolin find his way back to power and become a better and wiser statesman?
Offenbach’s hilarious opéra-bouffe-féerie König Karotte premiered on 15 January 1872 at the Théâtre de la Gaîté in Paris under its French title Le Roi Carotte. It enjoyed great success back then, and its later revivals garner much positive attention and acclaim. Now is the Volksoper Wien’s turn to produce this brilliant allegory for the twists and turns of political life. Originally written as the Franco-Prussian War still raged, Sardou’s incisive text made fun of various political factions in France, exposing their moral deficits and inability to govern. The image of a band of root vegetables usurping power and pandering to the masses strikes us with its bitter realism even nowadays.