A small crowd of people gathered in the lobby and stood before the closed doors of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, among them Germany's Minister of Culture, Michael Naumann. He was casually dressed, in Jeans and unofficial, totally opposite to the way many of the others who were waiting were dressed. Everyone was waiting to enter "Red Light, Blues Night". A Blues night in the Oper? A nightclub on the main stage where normally Gods such as Wotan bellow? Let us surprised.
First, like always, you take the stairs up from the lobby, but then at the first landing, the audience is redirected - through the stage door! Suddenly, you were standing in a huge hall, next to a small stage. The floor is red, and spread before you lies a stylish ballroom, a bar, little tables everywhere, and a large , roomy dance floor. Only when you looked above your head was one reminded of where you was. From the ceiling hung parts of scenery and endless rows of spotlight. We find ourselves standing right where Wagner's Nibelungen fight, prima donnas and Rosencavaliers' voices trumpet and large choruses march around singing. The main stage of the opera is a nightclub tonight.
Behind the stage for the Blackriders orchestra rise skycrapers. A cool version of Horace Silver's "Song For My Father" comes from DJ Zakey's turntables. All the tables are quickly filled and Robin Hemingway steps on stage. The American blues singer with an office in Berlin introduces his friend Peter Schneider, and sings three original blues songs (duos, accompanied in order by guitarist Veronika Vogel, pianist Christophe Sorci, and guitarist Loomis Green).
Schneider, the writer of popular German novels with political east-west themes such as "The Wall Jumper" told a pair of short blues anecdotes and recited an early blues poem of his.
With an Opera version of "Summertime", Marisa Turner began her part of the show and segued into a funky, gospel "Summertime". After she went off, master of ceremonies Peter Schneider reminisced about June 2, 1967 when he stood in front of the Deutsche Oper as part of a student demonstration with others against the Shah of Iran. It was the jumping-off point for the student movement's demonstrations in West Germany.
"I am proud of 1968," emphazised Schneider, and asked aloud if there was anybody in the audience who had also stood on the outside of the Deutsche Oper. The question remained unanswered, Minister of Culture Naumann beningly smiled, and the Blues took over the stage once more. This time the full Blackriders Orchestra with strings, conducted by Kevin McCutcheon, the 'Studienleiter' of the Opera house. "Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, all of them, except maybe Wagner, have opened wide doors to the Blues," asserted Schneider.
Soul singer Queen Yahna cast all ideas of culture and intrigue aside, and with her "Bottle Breaking Blues" brought the audience out on the dance floor. It is long after one o' clock in the morning, the writer and ex-book publisher now in the Ministeramt chatted amiably with each other and the red light of the Blues night was still glowing bright, not yet extinguished.
29 June 2000, Berliner Morgenpost