Five years after Wagner's "Parsifal," Johann Strauss II presented "Simplicius" in the Theatre an der Wien. Neither an opera nor an operetta, it was a work that did not fit into any of the pre-defined categories. On the 100th anniversary of the composer's death in 1999, the Zurich opera house presented a new production, the work's Swiss premiere. This production picked up on various impulses from the history of the work's origin, using them to create a unique version of the piece. Here, for example, is the "Donauweibchen" incorporated shortly before the end. The Austrian-born chief conductor of the Zurich opera house, Franz Welser-Most, has left his mark as a native speaker on this "Simplicius" production both here and elsewhere.
The British director David Pountney, born in Oxford in 1947, lets the entertaining tale unfold accompanied by the many spectacular effects for which he has become internationally famous. Monumental props are embellished with skilled, clean-cut directing work, seasoned with a healthy portion of black humour. In the final scene the audience sees a dramatic gallows from which numerous corpses dangle, all turning in time to the music of a waltz