Sigmund Romberg

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Romberg in 1949 Sigmund Romberg 1949.JPG
Romberg in 1949

Sigmund Romberg (July 29, 1887 – November 9, 1951) was a Hungarian-born American composer. He is best known for his musicals and operettas, particularly The Student Prince (1924), The Desert Song (1926) and The New Moon (1928).


Early in his career, Romberg was employed by the Shubert brothers to write music for their musicals and revues, including several vehicles for Al Jolson. For the Shuberts, he also adapted several European operettas for American audiences, including the successful Maytime (1917) and Blossom Time (1921). His three hit operettas of the mid-1920s, named above, are in the style of Viennese operetta, but his other works, from that time, mostly employ the style of American musicals of their eras. He also composed film scores.


Romberg was born in Hungary as Siegmund Rosenberg to a Jewish [1] [2] family, Adam and Clara Rosenberg, [3] in Gross-Kanizsa (Hungarian: Nagykanizsa) during the Austro-Hungarian kaiserlich und königlich (Imperial and Royal) monarchy period. In 1889 Romberg and his family moved to Belišće, which was then in Hungary, [4] where he attended a primary school. Influenced by his father, Romberg learned to play the violin at six, and piano at eight years of age. He enrolled at Osijek gymnasium in 1897, where he was a member of the high school orchestra. [3] He went to Vienna to study engineering, but he also took composition lessons while living there. In June 1909, he boarded the SS Oceanic as a second-class cabin passenger, sailing from the Port of Southampton, England,[ citation needed ] to the Port of New York. [5] After a brief stint working in a pencil factory in New York,[ citation needed ] he was employed as a pianist in cafés and restaurants. [2]

He eventually founded his own orchestra and published a few songs, which, despite their limited success, brought him to the attention of the Shubert brothers, who in 1914 hired him to write music for their Broadway theatre shows. That year he wrote his first successful Broadway revue, The Whirl of the World. He then contributed songs to several American musical adaptations of Viennese operettas, including the successful The Blue Paradise (1915). Even more successful was the musical Maytime , in 1917. Both involved love across generations and included nostalgic waltzes, along with more modern American dance music. [6] At the same time, Romberg contributed songs to the Shuberts' popular revues The Passing Show of 1916 and The Passing Show of 1918 and to two vehicles for Al Jolson: Robinson Crusoe, Jr. (1916), an extravaganza burlesque on the familiar story, and Sinbad (1918), an Arabian Nights-themed musical. Romberg wrote another Jolson vehicle in 1921, Bombo . [7] He wrote the music for the musical comedy Poor Little Ritz Girl , which also had songs by Richard Rodgers. [8]

Romberg's adaptation of melodies by Franz Schubert for Blossom Time (1921, produced in the UK as Lilac Time) was a great success. [9] He subsequently wrote his best-known operettas, The Student Prince (1924), The Desert Song (1926) and The New Moon (1928), which are in a style similar to the Viennese operettas of Franz Lehár. [10] He also wrote Princess Flavia (1925), an operetta based on The Prisoner of Zenda . His other works, My Maryland (1927), a successful romance; Rosalie (1928), together with George Gershwin; and May Wine (1935), with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, about a blackmail plot; and Up in Central Park (1945), are closer to the American musical in style. [11] Romberg also wrote a number of film scores and adapted his own work for film. [12]

Columbia Records asked Romberg to conduct orchestral arrangements of his music (which he had played in concerts) for a series of recordings from 1945 to 1950 that were issued both on 78-rpm and 33-1/3 rpm discs. These performances are now prized by record collectors. Naxos Records digitally remastered the recordings and issued them in the U.K. (They cannot be released in the U.S. because Sony Music Entertainment, which is a parent company of Columbia Records, holds the copyright for their American release.) Much of Romberg's music, including extensive excerpts from his operettas, was released on LP during the 1950s and 1960s, especially by Columbia, Capitol, and RCA Victor. Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, who appeared in an MGM adaptation of The New Moon in 1940, regularly recorded and performed his music. There have also been periodic revivals of the operettas.

Romberg died in 1951, aged 64, of a stroke at his Ritz Towers Hotel suite in New York City and was interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Romberg married twice. Little is known about his first wife, Eugenia, who appears on a 1920 federal census form as being Austrian. His second wife was Lillian Harris, whom he married on March 28, 1925, in Paterson, New Jersey. They had no children. Lillian Harris was born March 8, 1898, and died April 15, 1967, in New York City.

Selected songs


Romberg was the subject of the 1954 Stanley Donen-directed film Deep in My Heart , in which he was portrayed by José Ferrer. The film was an adaptation of Elliott Arnold 's 1949 biography of Romberg. [15]

His operetta The New Moon was the basis for two film adaptations, both titled New Moon; the 1930 version starred Lawrence Tibbett and Grace Moore in the main roles, and the 1940 version starred Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

"Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" and "Lover, Come Back to Me" from The New Moon are still jazz-blues/soft-jazz classics and have been performed by many jazz performers.

He is featured in the lyrics to the 1963 Allan Sherman comedy song "The Mexican Hat Dance".


Romberg starred in An Evening with Romberg on NBC June 12, 1945 – August 31, 1948, mostly Tuesdays at 10:30 pm as a summer replacement series for Hildegarde's Raleigh Room (1945) and for The Red Skelton Show (1947–1948). The program featured three vocalists (Anne Jamison, Reinhold Schmidt, Robert Merrill), a 58-piece orchestra, and Frank Gallop as host/announcer. [16] Music genres included "operatic arias, short symphonic works and overtures to popular songs, light classics, dance music and even a bit of outright jazz." [17]


Since 1970, Belišće organizes musical evenings [18] in Romberg's honor; similar events are held in Osijek since 1995. [3] He was named as one of the meritorious and notable citizens of Osijek. [3] Romberg was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. [19]

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The New Moon is the name of an operetta with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Frank Mandel, and Laurence Schwab. The show was the third and last in a string of Broadway hits for Romberg written in the style of Viennese operetta. It spawned a number of revivals and two film versions, and it is still played by light opera companies. The piece turned out to be "Broadway's last hit operetta", as World War II and the Golden Age of musicals approached.

<i>Little Mary Sunshine</i>

Little Mary Sunshine is a musical that parodies old-fashioned operettas and musicals. The book, music, and lyrics are by Rick Besoyan. The original Off-Broadway production premiered November 18, 1959 at the Orpheum Theatre in New York City's East Village. Staying in the neighborhood, it moved to the Player's Theatre on June 21, 1961, then, finally, to the Cherry Lane Theatre on March 21, 1962. Closing was Sept. 2, 1962. Combined run was 1,143 performances. It was seen briefly in a West End production in 1962 and has become a popular show for amateur and semi-professional groups in the United States and elsewhere.

<i>Deep in My Heart</i> (1954 film) 1954 American film directed by Stanley Donen

Deep in My Heart is a 1954 MGM biographical musical film about the life of operetta composer Sigmund Romberg, who wrote the music for The Student Prince, The Desert Song, and The New Moon, among others. Leonard Spigelgass adapted the film from Elliott Arnold's 1949 biography of the same name. Roger Edens produced, Stanley Donen directed and Eugene Loring choreographed. José Ferrer played Romberg, with support from soprano Helen Traubel as a fictional character and Merle Oberon as actress, playwright, librettist, producer, and director Dorothy Donnelly.

<i>New Moon</i> (1940 film) 1940 film by Robert Zigler Leonard, W. S. Van Dyke

New Moon is a 1940 American musical film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and directed by Robert Z. Leonard, with uncredited direction by W. S. Van Dyke.

"Lover, Come Back to Me" is a popular song composed by Sigmund Romberg with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II for the Broadway show The New Moon, where the song was introduced by Evelyn Herbert and Robert Halliday. The song was published in 1928.

<i>Maytime</i> (musical)

Maytime is a musical with music by Sigmund Romberg and lyrics and book by Rida Johnson Young, and with additional lyrics by Cyrus Wood. The story is based on the 1913 German operetta Wie einst im Mai, composed by Walter Kollo, with words by Rudolf Bernauer and Rudolph Schanzer. The story, set in New York, is told in episodes covering a long period, from 1840 to the 20th century. Wealthy young Ottillie is in love with Dick, but they are kept apart by family and circumstance. Years later, their descendants marry. Maytime introduced songs such as "The Road to Paradise", "Will You Remember?" and "Jump Jim Crow".

Rida Johnson Young

Rida Johnson Young was an American playwright, songwriter and librettist. In her career, Young wrote over thirty plays and musicals, and over 500 songs. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. Some of her best-known lyrics include "Mother Machree" from the 1910 show Barry of Ballymore, "Italian Street Song", "I'm Falling in Love with Someone" and "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life" from Naughty Marietta, and "Will You Remember?" from Maytime.

<i>Bombo</i> (musical)

Bombo is a Broadway musical with a book and lyrics by Harold R. Atteridge and music by Sigmund Romberg.

<i>Robinson Crusoe, Jr.</i>

Robinson Crusoe, Jr. is a musical with a book by Edgar Smith, lyrics by Harold R. Atteridge, and music by Sigmund Romberg and James Hanley.

<i>Sinbad</i> (1918 musical)

Sinbad is a Broadway musical with a book and lyrics by Harold R. Atteridge and music by Sigmund Romberg, Al Jolson and others. Jolson plays a porter in old Bagdad where he meets a series of characters from the Arabian Nights, including Sinbad. He is transported to various exotic settings.

<i>May Wine</i>

May Wine is a musical with a book by Frank Mandell, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and music by Sigmund Romberg. The show was adapted from the novel The Happy Alienist by Eric von Stroheim and Wallace Smith. The story concerns the rich and absent-minded psychology professor, Johann Volk, who falls in love with Marie. The malevolent Baron Kuno Adelhorst, who also loves Marie, tries to get the professor's money by having Marie marry him, but after they are married she comes to love the professor and does not want to blackmail him. However, the Professor thinks he has been deceived and tries to shoot Marie. He does not hurt her, and all ends well. The subplot involves an artist's model, Friedl, who wants a man's attention and gets it from the Baron.

"Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" is a song with music by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II from the 1928 operetta The New Moon. One of the best-known numbers from the show, it is a song of bitterness and yearning for a lost love, sung in the show by Philippe (tenor), the best friend of the hero, Robert Mission (baritone).

New Moon is a 1930 black-and-white American, pre-Code romantic/drama/melodrama musical film version of the operetta The New Moon, with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and others. The original stage version premiered on Broadway in 1928. The 1930 film is also known as Komissa Strogoff in Greece, Nymånen in Denmark and Passione cosacca in Italy. A second adaptation, also titled New Moon, was released in 1940.

Dorothy Donnelly

Dorothy Donnelly was an actress, playwright, librettist, producer, and director. After a decade-long acting career that included several notable roles on Broadway, she turned to writing plays, musicals and operettas, including more than a dozen on Broadway including several long-running successes. Her most famous libretto was The Student Prince (1924), in collaboration with composer Sigmund Romberg.

Jesse C. Huffman (1869–1935) was an American theatrical director. Between 1906 and 1932 he directed or staged over 200 shows, mostly for the Shubert Brothers. Many of them were musical revues, musicals or operettas. He is known for The Passing Show series of revues that he staged from 1914 to 1924 at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway, daring alternatives to the Ziegfeld Follies.


  1. "Posjet predstavnika židovske općine iz Osijeka" Archived 2013-05-22 at the Wayback Machine (Visit of representatives of the Jewish community of Osijek), Grad Belišće, Gradski bilten; broj 25, November 15, 2007 (in Croatian)
  2. 1 2 "Romberg [Rosenberg], Sigmund" by William A. Everett, Grove Music Online (subscription required)
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Biografija; Sigmund Romberg" (in Croatian). Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  4. Everett, William A.; Block, Geoffrey Holden (2007). Sigmund Romberg . Yale University Press. p.  38. ISBN   9780300111835. When Romberg lived there, Belišće was in Hungary
  5. "Romberg, Sigmund" by Peter Gammond and Andrew Lamb, The Oxford Companion to Music(subscription required)
  6. Everett2007, pp. 77–92.
  7. Everett 2007, Chapter 2.
  8. Decorating Clementine at the Internet Broadway Database
  9. Everett 2007, Chapter 4.
  10. Everett 2007, Chapters 5, 6 and 7.
  11. Everett 2007, Chapter 8.
  12. Everett 2007, Chapter 9.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Parker, Bernard S. (2007). World War I Sheet Music (Volume 1). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 221, 237, 347, 420. ISBN   0-7864-2798-1.
  14. 1 2 Parker, Bernard S. (2007). World War I Sheet Music (Volume 2). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 586, 793. ISBN   0-7864-2799-X.
  15. Arnold 1949.
  16. The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio by John Dunning, p. 235
  17. "Sigmund Romberg Returns with All Types of Music". The Morning Herald . Hagerstown, Maryland. October 15, 1940. p. 6. Retrieved May 20, 2019 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  18. "The Romberg Music Evenings". Hrvatska turistička zajednica. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  19. "Sigmund Romberg (bio)". IMDb. Retrieved 16 February 2019.


Further reading