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Production shot of The Silver Lake

The Silver Lake - A Winter's Tale (Der Silbersee)

Autumn 2019

Kurt Weill

ETO’s first Kurt Weill production
Autumn 2019
  • 4 Stars

    A larger than life performance of a show that could hardly be more topical

    The Independent

  • 4 Stars

    unsparingly staged by James Conway and handsomely conducted by James Holmes

    The Guardian

  • 4 Stars

    its satire remains sharp

    The Observer

  • 4 Stars

    well performed by a well-chosen ETO cast

    The Mail On Sunday

  • achieved with remarkable musical and theatrical success

    The Sunday Times

1 More Reviews

  • 4 Stars

    a sharply critical yet ultimately hopeful musical satire

    The Telegraph


Act I

Some impoverished youths, including Severin, enact a mock burial of Hunger near the shores of the silver lake, where they live as renegades. They mock the politicians who tell them to ‘buckle your belt a notch tighter’.

Shop assistants explain pricing policy, which requires that yesterday’s good must be destroyed – rather than given to the poor, for example – in order to maintain margins. The youths break in and steal some food. Severin selects a pineapple. The girls raise the alarum.

Olim, a policeman, writes his report on the robbery. In pursuit of the youths, Olim shot Severin, who is now in the prison hospital. Olim examines his conscience. He reflects that if he had money he would look after the wounded man. A Lottery Agent appears, announcing that Olim has won the jackpot; he advises Olim to invest his windfall and avoid charity. Olim hesitates – but then he decides to quit his job and dedicate himself to the well-being of Severin.

In the prison hospital Severin hallucinates. Olim visits him, and soothes him with promises of regular meals – but does not reveal that he himself is the policeman who shot him.

Act II

Olim is living in a castle with Severin, and with his house keeper Frau Von Luber, an aristocrat on hard times. To the castle comes Fennimore, the housekeeper’s homeless niece. Frau Von Luber instructs her to spy on Olim and Severin. Olim asks Fennimore to serenade them at dinner, in order to lift the spirits of Severin. She sings a ballad on the subject of Caesar’s assassination. Severin is agitated, and violently slices the pineapple on the table; Fennimore is told by her aunt to leave the castle.

Severin is obsessed by the idea of taking revenge on the policeman who shot and disabled him. Olim is terrified, and seeks help from Frau Von Luber; he confesses to her his relation to Severin, and gives up to her the keys of the castle.

Before leaving, Fennimore sees Severin, who is now walking. He suggests that she seek out his friends who live by the silver lake.


Severin’s behaviour is ever wilder. He wants to see Olim, who hides in the tower of the castle. Fennimore returns with the youths. Severin is enraged when they reveal to him that the policeman who shot him was Olim.

Frau von Luber tells Olim that Severin is laying siege to the tower, and that he would starve him out. She offers to look after him if he will sign a paper (which transfers the castle to her). As she locks him in, he cries out that he is sure Severin will forgive him, if she will let them see each other.

Severin is now chained in the basement, while Olim is locked in the tower. But Severin’s chains fall away at the moment that his desire for revenge subsides. Frau von Luber offers him the key to the tower so he can avenge himself on Olim - but surprised by his change of heart, she locks him up.

As Frau von Luber and her friend Baron Laur celebrate, Fennimore steals the key. Olim and Severin forgive each other – but they are cast out by the aristocrats who have dispossessed them.

Olim and Severin make their way to the silver lake. Snow falls, though it is not winter. They hear singing. The path is obscured by snow, but then in a moment the season changes and the way is clear. They expect to wade out into the water and drown, but the lake is frozen: a voice tells them that the lake will bear their weight as they cross to a new future, leaving behind the horror of night.