Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit of the Old Lady) was originally a play written by Friedrich Durrenment. It has previously been translated into English and performed on Broadway starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine. It has also been adapted into an opera libretto and several films have been loosely based on the original play. In the Summer of 2013, a second musical adaptation starring Pia Douwes and Uwe Kroeger premiered at Switzerland’s Thun Festival. It opened in Vienna in February this year and the “gesamtaufnahme” – better known as a cast recording featuring most (if not all) of the show’s dialogue – was made available worldwide. iTunes UK have priced the album at a steep £17.99 however I have enjoyed listening to the cast recording enough to justify such a price.
The town of Gullen is in trouble and in desperate need of funds to revitalise the community. An incredibly wealthy woman who grew up in Gullen, Claire Zachanassian (Pia Douwes), arrives home and offers to give a huge donation – on one condition: the townspeople must kill Alfred Ill (Uwe Kroeger), general store owner, most popular man in town and Claire’s lover many years ago. Aghast, the mayor refuses Claire’s offer but Alfred becomes increasingly paranoid when he realises many of the townspeople are buying expensive items in his shop and have presumably received payments from Claire. Fearing his life, Alfred decides to flee for Australia – but is it possible to escape the wrath of the bitter Claire?
Aided by many reprises, the musical numbers are quickly recognisable; many are upbeat and catchy whilst others possess beautifully haunting qualities. Pia Douwes’ numbers are outstanding although Masha Karell’s “Ich Schutze Dich” is also a stand out moment. The score consists of a fantastic range of ensemble numbers, showcasing all members of the cast. The numbers range from dramatic to touching, joyful to sorrowful. As visible in the show’s trailer, Besuch has been staged to perfection. The sets and costumes look wonderful and the choreography contributes towards the overall impact of the dramatic musical numbers.