Kurt Gänzl

Last updated

Kurt Gänzl
Kurt Ganzl 2018.jpg
Kurt Gänzl in 2018
Brian Roy Gallas

(1946-02-15) February 15, 1946 (age 74)
Alma mater University of Canterbury
OccupationWriter, historian
Former casting director and singer
Notable work
The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre (1994, 2001)
Partner(s)Ian Bevan (died 2006)
Relatives John Gallas (brother)

Kurt-Friedrich Gänzl (born 15 February 1946) is a New Zealand writer, historian and former casting director and singer best known for his books about musical theatre.


After a decade-long playwriting, acting and singing career, and a second career as a casting director of West End shows, Gänzl became one of the world's most important chroniclers of musical theatre history. [1] According to Christophe Mirambeau of Canal Académie, "Kurt Gänzl is an institution. No one interested in musicals and operetta can ignore that. He is the world reference – with some few others, like Gerald Bordman, Ken Bloom, or Andrew Lamb – for that subject." [2] He has written a dozen books on musical theatre topics and blogs about musicals, light opera and people, especially of the Victorian era, involved with the musical stage.

Early life and career

Gänzl was born Brian Roy Gallas [3] in Wellington, New Zealand, and is of Austrian descent, the son of Frederick, né Fritz Eduard Gänzl, an educator who moved to New Zealand before World War II and became Headmaster of Wellington Technical College and who adopted the name Fred Gallas, and his wife Nancy, née Agnes Ada Welsh. [3] [4] He studied law and classics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, receiving a master's degree in 1967 while performing as a radio and concert vocalist. [2]

Early in his career, Gänzl wrote plays. His one-act plays Elektra and The Women of Troy were produced in New Zealand in 1966 and 1967 by Elmwood Players. The latter play won the British Drama League (Drama magazine) award in 1967. [3] The next year, Gänzl joined the New Zealand Opera Company as a bass soloist. [2] After the company closed in 1968, he moved to London and studied for a year at the London Opera Centre. For several more years, he worked as a performer, including a 1969 season in the hit London show, The Black and White Minstrels , [5] and afterwards in Monte Carlo and on cruise ships. His last show was the 1974 production of Tommy Steele's adaptation of Hans Andersen at the London Palladium. [6] Throughout the 1980s, together with his domestic partner, the theatrical agent Ian Bevan, he worked as a talent agent and as a casting director for Harold Fielding on over a dozen musicals and plays in London's West End theatres and for musical and operatic productions in Europe, Australia and America. [2] [7]

Writing and later years

While still working as a casting director, Gänzl began writing theatre reference works. In 1986 he published his two-volume history, The British Musical Theatre (1986), which won the Roger Machell Prize for the year's best performing-arts book and the British Library Association's McColvin Medal for the outstanding reference work (any subject) of its season. [3] This was followed by Gänzl's Book of the Musical Theatre (1988 with Andrew Lamb), The Blackwell Guide to the Musical Theater on Record (1989), The Complete 'Aspects of Love' (1990), five editions of Musicals (1995; US: Song and Dance: The Complete Story of Stage Musicals), and The Musical: A Concise History (1997). Gänzl has published over a dozen books on musical theatre and contributed many biographical entries to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies and Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians .

The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre

Gänzl's seminal reference work, The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre, was published in 1994 and greatly expanded in a second edition in 2001. It was a Dartmouth Medal honoree in 1995 and was awarded "Outstanding Reference Source" in 1997 by the American Library Association. Theatre historian John Kenrick wrote: "Only serious research libraries carry this set listing thousands of shows and individuals. This expanded update of the 1995 original edition is the best source to date on European musicals, with solid coverage of Broadway too." [8] Another critic calls it "the most exhaustive study anyone has yet made of musicals, and it is difficult to imagine it being done in a better or more thorough way." [9]

The Times wrote, "So, with The Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre, Kurt Gänzl ... has transcended all rivals. His work embraces not only Broadway and Shaftesbury Avenue, but Vienna and Budapest, Paris and Rome, Sydney and Toronto. He even apologises for including only three New Zealand entries. If there is a musical production of any kind that he does not know about, then it is odds-on that nobody else does either." [10] Gänzl has said, "My goals are to make the musical theater a respectable academic subject and to put the musical theater into its international context. I want to bring the so-called 'musical' and 'operetta' back together as part of the same art form and to dispel some of the early myths and quasi-historical errors and distortions that have become accepted as part of musical theater history." [3]

Later years

At the end of the 1980s, Gänzl moved to St. Paul de Vence in the south of France with Bevan to concentrate on writing full-time. [7] In the early 2000s, Gänzl and Bevan moved to homes in Sefton, New Zealand, and later spent some time in Berlin, Germany, and Yamba, Australia, where Gänzl completed biographies of Victorian burlesque queen Lydia Thompson, Broadway author William B. Gill and Victorian singing star Emily Soldene, and in 2017 a compendium of 100 biographies titled Victorian Vocalists. [11] Since 2007 Gänzl has contributed more than a thousand entries about Victorian and Edwardian singers, actors and musical theatre works, on his blog Kurt of Gerolstein. [12] He has also published biographies elsewhere, such as for Theatre Heritage Australia. [1]

Gänzl has an avid interest in the sport of harness racing and has owned and bred racehorses. [11] His partner of 30 years, Ian Bevan, died in 2006 aged 87. [13]

His younger brother is the poet John Gallas. [13] [14]


Related Research Articles

Ivan Caryll

Félix Marie Henri Tilkin, better known by his pen name Ivan Caryll, was a Belgian composer of operettas and Edwardian musical comedies in the English language. He composed some forty musical comedies and operettas.

Mr Cinders is a 1928 musical with music by Vivian Ellis and Richard Myers and a libretto by Clifford Grey and Greatrex Newman. The story is an inversion of the Cinderella fairy tale with the gender roles reversed. The Prince Charming character has become a modern (1928) young and forceful woman, and Mr Cinders is a menial.

<i>The Black Crook</i>

The Black Crook is a work of musical theatre first produced, with great success, in New York in 1866. Many theatre writers have identified The Black Crook as the first popular piece that conforms to the modern notion of a musical, while others regard this conclusion "as something of a joke". The book is by Charles M. Barras (1826–1873). The music, selected and arranged by Thomas Baker, consists mostly of adaptations, but it included some new songs composed for the piece, notably "You Naughty, Naughty Men". The story is a Faustian melodramatic romantic comedy, but the production became famous for its spectacular special effects and skimpy costumes.

<i>La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein</i>

La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein is an opéra bouffe, in three acts and four tableaux by Jacques Offenbach to an original French libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. The story is a satirical critique of unthinking militarism and concerns a spoiled and tyrannical young Grand Duchess who learns that she cannot always get her way.

In Town is a musical comedy written by Adrian Ross and James T. Tanner, with music by F. Osmond Carr and lyrics by Ross. The plot of In Town, though thin, is a smart tale of backstage and society intrigue. One of the popular songs from the show was "The Man About Town".

<i>Geneviève de Brabant</i>

Geneviève de Brabant is an opéra bouffe, or operetta, by Jacques Offenbach, first performed in Paris in 1859. The plot is based on the medieval legend of Genevieve of Brabant.

<i>Les deux aveugles</i>

Les deux aveugles is an 1855 one-act French bouffonerie musicale (operetta) by Jacques Offenbach. The libretto was written by Jules Moinaux and was a condensation of his 3-act Les musiciens ambulants.

Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens

The Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens is a Parisian theatre founded in 1855 by the composer Jacques Offenbach for the performance of opéra bouffe and operetta. The current theatre is located in the 2nd arrondissement at 4 rue Monsigny with an entrance at the back at 65 Passage Choiseul. In the 19th century the theatre was often referred to as the Salle Choiseul. With the decline in popularity of operetta after 1870, the theatre expanded its repertory to include comedies.

Clara T. Bracy was an English stage and silent film actress.

Charles Kenningham

Charles Kenningham was an English opera singer and actor best remembered for his roles in the 1890s with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.

<i>La fille de Madame Angot</i>

La fille de Madame Angot is an opéra comique in three acts by Charles Lecocq with words by Clairville, Paul Siraudin and Victor Koning. It was premiered in Brussels in December 1872 and soon became a success in Paris, London, New York and across continental Europe. Along with Robert Planquette's Les cloches de Corneville, La fille de Madame Angot was the most successful work of the French-language musical theatre in the last three decades of the 19th century, and outperformed other noted international hits such as H.M.S. Pinafore and Die Fledermaus.

Zeffie Tilbury

Zeffie Agnes Lydia Tilbury was an English actress.

Emily Soldene

Emily Soldene was an English singer, actress, director, theatre manager, novelist and journalist of the late Victorian era and the Edwardian period. She was one of the most famous singers of comic opera in the late nineteenth century, as well as an important director of theatre companies and later a celebrated gossip columnist.

Manuel Klein

Manuel Joachim Klein was an English-born composer of musical theatre and incidental music who worked primarily in New York City.

Andrew Martin Lamb is an English writer, music historian, lecturer and broadcaster, known for his expertise in light music and musical theatre. In addition to his musical work, Lamb maintained a full-time career as an actuary and investment manager.

<i>Le petit duc</i> opéra comique by Charles Lecocq

Le petit duc is an opéra comique in three acts by Charles Lecocq. The French libretto was by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.

J. Cheever Goodwin

John Cheever Goodwin was an American musical theatre librettist, lyricist and producer. Goodwin was born in Boston and graduated from Harvard University. He began a career in journalism before turning to writing for the stage. Early in his theatrical career he worked for Alice Oates, acting in her company and translating French opera bouffe into English for performance by her company. He often worked with composers Edward E. Rice and Woolson Morse. Goodwin was one of the earliest American writers dedicated to musical theatre librettos and lyrics. His first successful libretto was Evangeline in 1874, and his last new work was produced in 1903.

<i>The Circus Princess</i> (1929 film) 1929 film

The Circus Princess is a 1929 German silent film directed by Victor Janson. It is an adaptation of the operetta Die Zirkusprinzessin.

<i>La roussotte</i>

La roussotte is a French vaudeville-opérette in three acts with a prologue. The words were written by Henri Meilhac, Ludovic Halévy, and Albert Millaud, and the music composed by Hervé, Charles Lecocq, and Marius Boullard. It was first performed on 28 January 1881 at the Théâtre des Variétés in Paris with Anna Judic in the title role. Although not quite as successful as Niniche (1878) or Mam'zelle Nitouche (1882), it was given over a hundred times in its first run, and Judic performed it around the world on tour as part of her repertoire.

Alice Oates

Alice Oates was an actress, theatre manager and pioneer of American musical theatre who took opéra bouffe in English to all corners of America. She produced the first performance of a work by Gilbert and Sullivan in America with her unauthorised Trial by Jury in 1875, the first American production of The Sultan of Mocha (1878) and an early performance of H.M.S. Pinafore (1878).


  1. 1 2 "Kurt Gänzl", Theatre Heritage Australia, 2 September 2020
  2. 1 2 3 4 Mirambeau, Christophe. "Kurt Gänzl and Emily Soldene (1840–1912)", Canal Académie, 17 June 2007, accessed 8 May 2018
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Kurt Ganzl at Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002 (subscription required). Accessed 22 March 2009
  4. Gänzl, Kurt. "Gänzl"; and "The family hits Broadway and Hollywood!", Kurt of Gerolstein, 29 September 2011 and 24 December 2016, respectively, both accessed 16 July 2020
  5. Gänzl, Kurt. "The Magic of the Minstrels", Kurt of Gerolstein, 5 July 2017
  6. "The Singers", Palladium Theatre programme (1974); Hans Anderson, Guide to Musical Theatre, accessed 21 January 2010
  7. 1 2 Gänzl, Kurt. "A Magical Musical", Kurt of Gerolstein, 28 February 2014, accessed 16 July 2020
  8. Kenrick, John. "Suggested Reading", Musicals 101: The Cyber Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre, TV and Film (2004)
  9. O'Connor, Patrick. Times Literary Supplement, 3 November 1995
  10. Green, Benny. "All-singing, all-dancing haul of fame", The Times, 2 May 1994
  11. 1 2 Gänzl, Kurt. "Elena is a racehorse", Kurt of Gerolstein, 13 December 2008, accessed 8 May 2018
  12. Gänzl, Kurt. "Kurt of Gerolstein", BlogSpot.com, accessed 25 June 2020
  13. 1 2 Gänzl, Kurt. "The Ages of an Author", Kurt of Gerolstein, 2 October 2020; The Times, 2 January 2007, p. 48; and Newley, Patrick. Ian Bevan obituary, The Stage, December 8, 2006
  14. "John Gallas", Carcanet Press, accessed 29 April 2014