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Jan Müller-Wieland sets Elke Heidenreich:

The Cologne Opera has commissioned Jan Müller-Wieland, Detlev Glanert, Georg Graewe, Thilo Medek and Marc-Aurel Floros to compose short 5-minute comic operas to texts by Elke Heidenreich. The intention was to restore the tradition of Baroque "intermezzi," which were performed as comic inserts during the intervals of large opera seria works. Correspondingly, these modern "intermezzi" will be performed during the intervals of almost every opera performance (except premieres) this season in the upper opera foyer (Yakult Hall). The five short operas had a premiere together on 15 November 2003 before they then began to be presented during the Cologne 2003-2004 season during the opera intervals.

Müller-Wieland says: "Elke Heidenreich has, as everyone knows, what people in Berlin call 'a big mouth with a heart.' Moreover, she has a (politically hidden) stage instinct and, according to the situation, can always be relied upon for a punch-line."

Müller-Wieland had a lot of fun setting the text to "The Chinese Laundry." The piece is so entitled because of its main protagonist, a Chinese man working in a laundry. He cannot pronounce the letter "r" and therefore sings only "l" instead or "r" in this opera. Saddled with this speech impediment, he returns washed and ironed shirts to the recently widowed Berner (or, as he calls him, "Belnel"). Without meaning any harm, he then shows the client his own human weaknesses. Müller-Wieland clothes the brief comedy in a "music schooled in Satie and 'opéra minute,' " as he calls it. It is scored for vibraphone (cabaret), temple blocks (China!) and a distant trumpet (Europe).