This news item is from Saturday 14 February, i.e. before the ceasefire ‘success’. I’m not saying this is untrue exactly, but you can’t help feeling there’s a touch of propaganda at work behind this story of the brave opera-loving citizens of Donetsk, brimming over with culture unlike some we won’t mention.

After watching this I had to find out which opera got bums on seats (lovey) in warring Donetsk. The France 2 news people call it Monsieur X by Imre Kálmán but I couldn’t find anything with that name by Kálmán. Eventually I discovered that Mister X was one of the lead roles in Kálmán’s operetta Die Zirkusprincessin (The Circus Princess). Set in Russia, it involves a romantic deception—a disappointed suitor hires circus daredevil Mr. X to pose as a nobleman to woo and marry Princess Fedora Palinska, presumably as revenge. But it turns out Mr. X is in fact a nobleman himself, though disinherited.

A hugely popular Russian movie was made in 1958 under the name Мистер Икс (Mister X) starring the Estonian baritone Georg Ots. The only Wikipedia pages about this movie are in Russian, Ukrainian and Esperanto, which I suppose is a measure of its popularity in Russia, Ukraine and…Esperantonia. Lines from the movie have apparently become part of Russian folklore—memes I suppose. So, the only remaining question is whether this is Die Zirkusprincessin renamed with the name of the better-known movie or an operetta based on the movie based on the operetta. Either way, it looks like the ‘safe’ choice for this season in Donetsk…at least artistically.


Here’s Georg Ots singing the hit aria Zwei Märchenaugen (Two fairy-tale eyes). I don’t understand Russian, but the Russian lyrics sound like they might be quite different to the English translation (of the original German) that I’ve added. Oh well, our cross-cultural understanding is always limited.