Keep calm and look up occasionally... there may be spiders, or zombies above your head. A spook show? Why, yes indeed it is. The Komische Opera in Berlin has premiered a gothic musical theatre work by Heinrich Marschner... and it is a gory, good romp.

Maria Fiselier (Emmy) and Heiko Trinsinger (Lord Ruthven/The Vampire) © Iko Freese | drama-berlin.de
Maria Fiselier (Emmy) and Heiko Trinsinger (Lord Ruthven/The Vampire)
© Iko Freese | drama-berlin.de
The original composition, Der Vampyr, was written in 1828, and offered three hours of vampires and victims to its public. Most fortunately, experienced musical theatre director Antú Romero Nunes edited his production to a solid 90 minutes of bloody, good singing. The resulting musical theatre performance retains its compositional charm, and while the story is not too cheery – a vampire must kill three virgins to remain alive for one more year – humour is ever-present. Here I must wonder why a vampire would even want to remain alive for another year.

With so much murder and mayhem about, there is little time for any deep character exploration. Even as some of the characters spring directly from the audience, none are truly sympathetic, or engaging. Maria Fiselier's Emmy most touches the heart and her soprano arias are lovely. She clambers from the audience and goes rather gladly into the arms of the vampire, a happy ending of sorts for her? Emmy's husband, who also jumps out of the audience onto the stage, sings with the impotence of a man who has lost his wife to another man – a pale, bald, combed-over, (much) older man who just happens to be a vampire. We could feel sorry for Emmy's husband, but alas, he is just not interesting enough to bother.

Nicole Chevalier performed Malwina's arias with flair, and this bright note was as incongruous as her appearance, providing brilliant contrast to the otherwise appropriately droll stage design. A chorus of zombies contributed to the fun of the evening. They executed their zombie twitches with aplomb and also sang well. Is it too much to ask that they are also heard when facing the rear of the stage though?

Nicole Chevalier (Malwina) © Iko Freese | drama-berlin.de
Nicole Chevalier (Malwina)
© Iko Freese | drama-berlin.de

Tenor Zoltán Nyári also had problems with finding the right voice for each stage position as he performed the role of of Edgar Aubry, the unwilling vampire's assistant. When singing in intimate proximity of the audience, Nyári was at times strident and over loud. At the back of the stage his lovely tenor was sometimes lost. Heiko Trinsinger as Lord Ruthven the vampire offered a rich baritone throughout the entire opera, even as he pulled the dripping internal organs from his victims. Yes, there was much blood on the stage.

Barrie Kosky has brought a great deal of new life to the Komische Oper Berlin. Now he has also brought back the dead. It was all good fun, but in the end I prefer the live ones.