Bonn museum opens homage to ‘schlager’

Schmaltzy German schlager music will take its place in musical history alongside Beethoven and Wagner in a museum exhibit opening on Friday in Bonn.

Bonn museum opens homage to 'schlager'
Udo Jürgens' piano in the Bonn display. Photo: DPA

Visitors to the House of History of the German Federal Republic will be able to bask in syrupy synth-pop in a series of stages that chronicle the development of schlager – German for ‘hit’ – for the last century.

Titled “Melodies for Millions: the Century of Schlager,” the exhibit puts the melodramatic mainstay of German radio, television and discos in historical context, museum spokesman Peter Hoffmann told The Local on Thursday.

Curators concluded the genre could include any commercially-successful German-language song, Hoffmann said.

“It’s not new to study schlager. There’s a lot of secondary literature about schlager. But a display like this hasn’t existed yet,” he said. “We are trying to speak to the passions and pains of the people but also to show how the schlager music was dependent on its period.”

For example, one exhibit tells how Jewish schlager musicians were expelled by the Nazis before World War II, Hoffmann said.

The exhibit also explores the genre’s roots in late 19th-century popular operettas and looks at present-day artists’ stealing of motifs from hip-hop.

Among some 1,500 items on display are stage clothes from Zarah Leander and others, a moped that once belonged to Cornelia Froboess and a concert grand piano made of glass and used by schlager star Udo Jürgens in concert. Visitors can listen to more than 1,000 songs and watch excerpts of schlager films.

The exhibit runs through Oct. 5. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Tuesday through Sunday, and admission is free.