Wednesday, June 30, 2021

When Winnetou rode along the Flaucher

 Winnetou (Pierre Brice) and the beautiful daughter of the chief Ribanna (Karin Dor).


Süddeutsche Zeitung

June 17, 2021

The Apache chief and his friend "Old Shatterhand" had their first stage appearances in Munich. The new publication "Karl May on the Stage" shows how much the two have shaped the city. 

In the end, one might have thought that Michael Jackson would have done such scenes, but Karl May would? It is July 1897, the writer, who pretends to be a hero traveling the world, has just stayed at the Hotel Trefler on Sonnenstrasse in Munich. But because a bookseller has informed a newspaper, hundreds of people crowd the street, shouting, waving hats. Every ten minutes he had to step out onto the balcony, May later complained: "The smaller high school students were standing so close to the hotel that the tramway couldn't go through and there was no other help than spraying them apart with a water hose." When the author visits the city again the following year, a "May Club Munich" is already meeting in the Hotel Trefler. And the writer receives an invitation to the royal family in the Wittelsbacher Palais. Karl May: That was an event.

So it is only logical that it was Munich where May's Wild West heroes "Old Shatterhand" and "Winnetou" had their first appearances in the theater - and where there was also the first open-air production after the war in 1949, even if this was it was ultimately a fiasco. This is how it can now be read at least from Nicolas Finke and Reinhard Marheinecke: The two Karl May enthusiastic publicists have examined May's stage history and have now presented the first of three planned volumes with their results, a richly illustrated, lovingly presented reference work full of small stories and large ones Dramas.

Munich was once a wild west crazy city anyway, especially after William Cody first performed on Theresienwiese in 1890. "Buffalo Bill", who was also once called "Ochsenwilli" on the Isar, performed in Munich every day for two and a half weeks in front of sold-out stands. In the following years Wild West clubs were founded. The "Cowboy Club Munich" from 1913 still exists today.

 [Karl-May-Freilichtaufführungen 1949 auf der Naturbühne am Südende des Tierparks auf den Flaucherwiesen („Winnetou und sein weißer Bruder“) mit „Winnetou“ Werner Holzhey, „Old Shatterhand“ Dietmar Ernst Dauscher und „Sam Hawkens“ Ado Riegler

© Stadtarchiv München, Sig. FS-NL-RD-0811-M-04 und FS-NL-RD-0811-L-09]

However, according to this book, Munich has to leave the merit of being the very first Karl May stage location to Kötzschenbroda, which is now a district of Radebeul. As early as 1908, while the author, who died in 1912, was still alive, there was an oriental pantomime at a masked ball in the local railway hotel, based on May's "Through the Desert". Munich, on the other hand, was where Apache chief Winnetou first appeared on stage, namely in 1916 in an operetta in the Gärtnerplatztheater, which, however, was intended to be humorous. The play was called "Fräulein Rothaut" and was about a travel writer who strangled the bride of an Indian warrior. Finke and Marheinecke call it an "early form of Bully Herbig's 2001 hit film Der Schuh des Manitu as a musical theater piece".

Three years later it was called "Winnetou" in the Deutsches Theater - that is, where a new production of the musical "Schuh des Manitu" is currently being prepared. This time it was meant seriously, even if Old Shatterhand alias actor Adolf Hille had to wear a kind of scout uniform. The piece was written by the director of the Munich Youth and People's Theater, Hermann Dimmler. The play actually got good reviews, even if some journalists would have liked to see more action and others called the play another parody. In any case, the Karl-May-Verlag feared for the "literary monument" of Karl May, and so there were no more performances for years.

In Munich it took 30 years before "Winnetou and his white brother" could be seen again. In 1949 they rode in the open air across the meadows at Marienklause south of Hellabrunn. Harald Fürstenau and Werner Holzhey had written their own play and thus given unemployed actors a job. They had big plans. Their grandstand offered 1200 spectators, and there should always be a Winnetou Festival in Munich in the summer, as well as a tour.

Spiegel and Die Presse from Vienna reported on the premiere . However, the makers did not expect the bad weather that existed in Munich in June 1949, and they had no reserves to continue without income. The city did not want to help: it had "pressing obligations in the field of real art," it said. "Winnetou" was broke in mid-July.

Nicolas Finke / Reinhard Marheinecke: Karl May on stage. Volume I, Bamberg: Karl-May-Verlag 2021, 400 pages, 49 euros.

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