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Operetta “An der Schwemm”

Words By Cipriano De Guzmán Jr., Filipino Baritone

Photos courtesy of Laurent Sturm/ An der Schwemm Production

The swimming pool was the melting pot of social life in the 1920s.

In the heart of Europe lies a small but very important EU founding member; the Grand-Duché de Luxembourg. Nestled in the middle of France, Germany, and Belgium, this landlocked country is considered the richest country in the world by GDP per capita (Forbes Magazine 2022/Global Finance Magazine 2024). It is also home to the town of Schengen, where the Schengen Visa agreement was signed paving the way for visa-free travel among Schengen-member states. This country is rich in heritage and culture, being at the crossroads of French, German, and Belgian cultures.

This year, after more than a century, the operetta “An der Schwemm,” a Luxembourgish cultural treasure, has been revived by Opera Mobile, co-produced with Escher Theater, Centre des Arts Pluriels Ettelbruck, Festival de Wiltz, INECC Luxembourg and Maskénada. It is also supported by the Ministère de la Culture de Luxembourg, Fondation Indépendance and SACEM Luxembourg in collaboration with Fraen en Gender, Sequenda asbl, and Centre National de l’Audiovisuel. This operetta was created by Luxembourgish composer Lou Koster in 1922 and libretto by journalist Batty Weber. The story revolves around Lory, a confident swimmer who resists the advances of the official Zengerlé in the swimming pool and falls in love with the soldier and swimming instructor Reddy. The swimming pool was the melting pot of social life in the 1920s.

The hall of Escher Theater was captivated by the marvelous performance of this short operetta on January 27 and 28. It was followed by another performance at Centre des Arts Pluriels Ettelbruck on February 3 and 4. Stage direction was excellently executed by Marion Rothhaar with her assistant director Laetitia Lang, and the superb musical direction of Maestro Jonathan Kaell with the Orchestre de Chambre de Luxembourg brought life to this cultural gem. The audience were brought back to the 1920s, thanks to the genius stage setting and costume design by Peggy Wurth and the marvelous hair and makeup by Joël Seiller and Valentina Becker.

The difficult 20th century musical passages at the start of the operetta were given justice by the velvety soprano voice of Valérie Stammet, who played Lory, and the soaring tenor voice of Loïc Schlentz, who played the hunky swimming instructor, Reddy. The audience were mesmerized with the beautiful ariettas sung by Lory (Ms. Stammet) and Reddy (Mr. Schlentz). The lively and catchy song of Zengerlé, sung by baritone Christophe Bornet, kept many humming the tune even after the performance. Complementing the main cast are equally brilliant actors Marie Mathieu, Julie Colin, Luc Lamesch, and Misch Gessner. Adding layers to this wonderful operetta is the INECC Choir, composed of Cipriano De Guzmán Jr., Julien Ardouin, Julie Colin, Mària Devitsaki, Sandrine Garçon, Marie Mathieu, Henrik Mazur, Amandine Moutier, and Michèle Turpel with choir direction under Andy Loor and choreography by Gianfranco Celestino.

The operetta will be performed again on June 29 at the oldest and most traditional festival in Luxembourg, the Festival de Wiltz.


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