Entartete musik (IV)- Ernst Krenek’s Jazz Opera ‘Jonny Spielt Auf’

Jonny Spielt Auf- Opera of the Ernst Krenek

Ernst Krenek composed his jazz opera Jonny Spielt Auf  in 1926 and after one year, in 1927 the premiere of the opera was performed at the Leipzig Opera. This opera provided great success to Krenek’s musical life. At its first season, it had already reached twentysix performances. Thus, it was translated into many languages and was started to present all over the world.

Jonny Spielt Auf was about black jazz musicians and until that year, nobody composed such a modernist opera like this. Firstly, I would like to say that composing opera like this is a big work which requires courage because unfortunately black people always were exposed racial discrimination for years. Almost every society did not accept their existence. However, in spite all of these things, Krenek supported them and composed opera about their life. In addition, jazz music started to develop with the black people and maybe because of that Krenek had chosen jazz musicians as a subject of the opera. Secondly, the opera reflects modernism because in it there are symbols of modern life such as telephone, radio, train and automobile. Furthermore, Krenek uses twelve tone technique which is also marked as symbol of modernism. I had remarked this opera as ‘…big work which requires courage…’ because all of these I mentioned above were opponent the Nazi regime. According to Nazi regime, modernization should have banned. Moreover, the aim of the Nazis was to eliminate people from certain ethnicities and black people were one of them. Krenek used all in his opera  and of course it took attention of Nazis. After this, Jonny Spielt Auf was banned and marked as Degenerate Music. Krenek was begun to count as Degenerate Music Composers. In addition to this, in the exhibition ‘Entartete Kunst’ to insult composers, there was a picture for the Krenek’s opera. On the picture, there was a black jazz musician like an ape with saxophone and wearing Jewish star. Also, his opera was playing in the exhibition hall to show the visitors how terrible music was. Jonny Spielt Auf  was not performed again until Nazi regime was vanished.ENTARTMU


  • žBowles, G. H., Ernst Krenek A Bio-Bibliography, Greenwood Press, Inc., 1989, p. 1-14.
  • žStewart, J. L., Ernst Krenek- The Man and His Music, University of California Press, 1991, p. 21-24, 73-74, 154-156.
  • žwww.centerforjazzarts.org/classical

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