Franz Lehár ( // LAY-har; Hungarian : Lehár Ferenc [ˈlɛhaːr ˈfɛrɛnt͡s] ; 30 April 1870 – 24 October 1948) was an Austro-Hungarian composer. He is mainly known for his operettas, of which the most successful and best known is The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe).
Lehár was born in the northern part of Komárom, 50 of the Austro-Hungarian Army and Christine Neubrandt (1849–1906), a Hungarian woman from a family of German descent. He grew up speaking only Hungarian until the age of 12. Later he put an acute accent above the "a" of his father's surname "Lehár" to indicate the vowel in the corresponding Hungarian orthography.Kingdom of Hungary (now Komárno, Slovakia), the eldest son of Franz Lehár (senior) (1838–1898), an Austrian bandmaster in the Infantry Regiment No.
While his younger brother Anton entered cadet school in Vienna to become a professional officer, Franz studied violin at the Prague Conservatory, where his violin teacher was Antonín Bennewitz, but was advised by Antonín Dvořák to focus on composition. However, the Conservatory's rules at that time did not allow students to study both performance and composition, and Bennewitz and Lehár senior exerted pressure on Lehár to take his degree in violin as a practical matter, arguing that he could study composition on his own later. Lehár followed their wishes, against his will, and aside from a few clandestine lessons with Zdeněk Fibich he was self-taught as a composer. After graduation in 1888 he joined his father's band in Vienna, as assistant bandmaster. Two years later he became bandmaster at Losonc (today Lučenec, Slovakia), making him the youngest bandmaster in the Austro-Hungarian Army at that time, but he left the army and joined the navy. With the navy he was first Kapellmeister at Pola (Pula) from 1894 to 1896, resigning in the later year when his first opera, Kukuschka (reworked as Tatjana in 1906), premiered in Leipzig.It was only a middling success and Lehár eventually rejoined the army, with service in the garrisons at Trieste, Budapest (1898) and finally Vienna from 1899 to 1902. In 1902 he became conductor at the historic Vienna Theater an der Wien, where his operetta Wiener Frauen was performed in November of that year.
He is most famous for his operettas – the most successful of which is The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) – but he also wrote sonatas, symphonic poems and marches. He also composed a number of waltzes (the most popular being Gold und Silber, composed for Princess Pauline von Metternich's "Gold and Silver" Ball, January 1902), some of which were drawn from his famous operettas. Individual songs from some of the operettas have become standards, notably "Vilja" from The Merry Widow and "You Are My Heart's Delight" ("Dein ist mein ganzes Herz") from The Land of Smiles (Das Land des Lächelns). His most ambitious work, Giuditta in 1934 is closer to opera than to operetta. It contains the ever popular "Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß" ("On my lips every kiss is like wine").
Lehár was also associated with the operatic tenor Richard Tauber, who sang in many of his operettas, beginning with a revival of his 1910 operetta Zigeunerliebe in 1920 and then Frasquitain 1922, in which Lehár once again found a suitable post-war style. Lehár made a brief appearance in the 1930 film adaptation The Land of Smiles starring Tauber. Between 1925 and 1934 he wrote six operettas specifically for Tauber's voice. By 1935 he decided to form his own publishing house, Glocken-Verlag (Publishing House of the Bells), to maximize his personal control over performance rights to his works.
Lehár's relationship with the Nazi regime was an uneasy one. He had always used Jewish librettists for his operas and had been part of the cultural milieu in Vienna which included a significant Jewish contingent. [ citation needed ]Further, although Lehár was Roman Catholic, his wife, Sophie (née Paschkis) had been Jewish before her conversion to Catholicism upon marriage, and this was sufficient to generate hostility towards them personally and towards his work. Hitler enjoyed Lehár's music, and hostility diminished across Germany after Joseph Goebbels' intervention on Lehár's part. In 1938 Mrs. Lehár was given the status of "Ehrenarierin" (honorary Aryan by marriage). Nonetheless, attempts were made at least once to have her deported. The Nazi regime was aware of the uses of Lehár's music for propaganda purposes: concerts of his music were given in occupied Paris in 1941. Even so, Lehár's influence was limited. It is alleged that he tried personally to secure Hitler's guarantee of the safety of one of his librettists, Fritz Löhner-Beda, but he was not able to prevent the murder of Beda in Auschwitz-III. He also tried to prevent the arrest of Louis Treumann, the first Danilo in The Merry Widow, but the 70-year old Treumann and his wife Stefanie were sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp on 28 July 1942, where Stefanie died in September and Louis died on 5 March 1943.
On 12 January 1939 and 30 April 1940 Lehár personally received awards from Hitler in Berlin and Vienna, including the Goethe Medal.On Hitler's birthday in 1938 Lehár had given him as a special gift a red Morocco leather volume in commemoration of the 50th performance of The Merry Widow.
He died aged 78 in 1948 in Bad Ischl, near Salzburg, and was buried there. His younger brother Anton became the administrator of his estate, promoting the popularity of Franz Lehár's music.
In 1908, the German branch of The Gramophone Company Ltd (afterwards HMV) issued twelve extracts (mostly ensembles) from Lehár's latest operetta, Der Mann mit den drei Frauen, with the composer conducting. The singers included Mizzi Günther, Louise Kartousch and Ludwig Herold.
In 1929 and 1934, Lehár had conducted for Odeon Records The Land of Smiles and Giuditta , starring Richard Tauber, Vera Schwarz and Jarmila Novotná. A 1942 Vienna broadcast of his operetta Paganini conducted by the composer has survived, starring soprano, Esther Réthy and tenor, Karl Friedrich. A 1942 Berlin radio production of Zigeunerliebe with Herbert Ernst Groh, conducted by Lehár, also survives.
In 1947, Lehár conducted the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich in a series of 78-rpm recordings for English Decca (released in the U.S. by London Records) of overtures and waltzes from his operettas. The recordings had remarkable sound for their time because they were made using Decca's Full Frequency Range Recording process, one of the first commercial high fidelity techniques. These recordings were later issued on LP (in 1969 on Decca eclipse ECM 2012 and reprocessed stereo on ECS 2012) and CD. A compilation of his recordings has been released by Naxos Records.
Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a set of discs recording the 1939 Saarbrücken concert of Lehár's works by German State Transmitter Saarbrücken conducted by Franz Lehár himself was discovered in East German state archives. This was released on CDs by Classic Produktion Osnabrück in 2000.
Gustav Mahler and his young wife Alma went to see Lehár's The Merry Widow in Vienna and loved it so much, they danced to its tunes as soon as they were home. From memory they played the waltzes on the piano, but could not remember the exact run of one passage. Next day they went to Vienna's main music shop Döblinger's, but hesitated to admit that they were looking for the score of what would be considered a "popular" operetta. While Mahler distracted the staff questioning them about the sales of his own compositions, Alma browsed through the music score of The Merry Widow. As soon as they were out on the street, Alma sang the complete waltz to Mahler.
Operetta is a form of theatre and a genre of light opera. It includes spoken dialogue, songs, and dances. It is lighter than opera in terms of its music, orchestral size, length of the work, and at face value, subject matter. Apart from its shorter length, the operetta usually features a light and amusing character while making very controversial political commentaries in response to the oppressive governments and militaries that were present.
Emmerich Kálmán was an Hungarian composer of operettas and a prominent figure in the development of Viennese operetta in the 20th century. Among his most popular works are Die Csárdásfürstin (1915) and Gräfin Mariza (1924). Influences on his compositional style include Hungarian folk music, the Viennese style of precursors such as Johann Strauss II and Franz Lehár, and, in his later works, American jazz. As a result of the Anschluss, Kálmán and his family fled to Paris and then to the United States. He eventually returned to Europe in 1949 and died in Paris in 1953.
The Merry Widow is an operetta by the Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. The librettists, Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, based the story – concerning a rich widow, and her countrymen's attempt to keep her money in the principality by finding her the right husband – on an 1861 comedy play, L'attaché d'ambassade by Henri Meilhac.
Oscar Nathan Straus was a Viennese composer of operettas and film scores and songs. He also wrote about 500 cabaret songs, chamber music, and orchestral and choral works. His original name was actually Strauss, but for professional purposes he deliberately omitted the final 's', since he wished not to be associated with the musical Strauss family of Vienna. However, he did follow the advice of Johann Strauss II in 1898 about abandoning the prospective lure of writing waltzes for the more lucrative business of writing for the theatre.
The Land of Smiles is a romantic operetta in three acts by Franz Lehár. The German language libretto was by Ludwig Herzer and Fritz Löhner-Beda. The performance duration is about 100 minutes.
Richard Tauber was an Austrian tenor and film actor.
Leopold Fall was an Austrian Kapellmeister and composer of operettas.
Robert Elisabeth Stolz was an Austrian songwriter and conductor as well as a composer of operettas and film music.
Fritz Löhner-Beda, born Bedřich Löwy, was an Austrian librettist, lyricist and writer. Once nearly forgotten, many of his songs and tunes remain popular today. He was murdered in Auschwitz III Monowitz concentration camp.
Der Graf von Luxemburg is an operetta in three acts by Franz Lehár to a German libretto by Alfred Willner, Robert Bodanzky, and Leo Stein. A Viennese take on bohemian life in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, the story revolves around an impoverished aristocrat and a glamorous opera singer who have entered into a sham marriage without ever seeing each other and later fall in love at first sight, unaware that they are already husband and wife.
Marta Eggerth was a Hungarian actress and singer from "The Silver Age of Operetta". Many of the 20th century's most famous operetta composers, including Franz Lehár, Fritz Kreisler, Robert Stolz, Oscar Straus, and Paul Abraham, composed works especially for her.
Giuditta is an operatic musikalische Komödie in five scenes, with music by Franz Lehár and a German libretto, by Paul Knepler and Fritz Löhner-Beda. Scored for a large orchestra, it was Lehár's last and most ambitious work, written on a larger scale than his previous operettas. Of all his works it is the one which most approaches true opera, the resemblances between the story and that of Bizet's Carmen and its unhappy ending heightening the resonances. Perhaps the best known song in the work is the soprano aria "Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß", sung by Giuditta in the fourth scene. Another strong influence, especially for the North African setting, was the 1930 movie Morocco, starring Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper in very similar central roles, she being a singer-dancer, he being a soldier.
Mizzi Günther was a Bohemian-Viennese operetta soprano.
Victor Léon, also Viktor Léon was a well-known Jewish Austrian-Hungarian librettist. He collaborated with Leo Stein to produce the libretto of Franz Lehár's romantic operetta The Merry Widow.
Max Hansen , also known as 'The Little Caruso', was a Danish singer, cabaret artist, actor, and comedian.
"Yours Is My Heart Alone" or "You Are My Heart's Delight" is an aria from the 1929 operetta The Land of Smiles with music by Franz Lehár and the libretto by Fritz Löhner-Beda and Ludwig Herzer. It was for many years associated with the tenor Richard Tauber, for whom it was written. The aria is sung by the character of Prince Sou-Chong in act 2. An American version of the show opened on Broadway in 1946 starring Tauber but it soon closed as Tauber had throat trouble.
Paganini is an operetta in three acts by Franz Lehár. The German libretto was by Paul Knepler and Bela Jenbach.
This is a discography of The Merry Widow, an operetta by the Austro–Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. It was first performed at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna on 30 December 1905. The operetta has been recorded both live and in the studio many times, and several video recordings have been made. The first recording of a substantially complete version of the score was made in 1907 with Marie Ottmann and Gustav Matzner in the lead roles. The next full recording was issued in 1950, in English with Dorothy Kirsten and Robert Rounseville in the leading roles.
Julius Brammer was an Austrian librettist and lyricist. Some of his better-known works were written in conjunction with the composers Emmerich Kálmán, Oscar Straus, Leo Ascher, Edmund Eysler and Robert Stolz.
Herta Talmar was an Austrian operetta singer (soprano) as well as an actress.
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