Operetta: A Theatrical History

By Richard Traubner | Go to book overview

THE SCHOOL OF STRAUSS II

THE THEATER an der Wien and the Carltheater had become the temples of Viennese operetta. Had today's long-run syndrome (and attendant advertising) existed in the 1870s, the works of Strauss and Suppé alone would have filled these theatres for months and months, but managers then had to have a supply of many works by other authors and composers to fill up their theatrical calendars. French works were still popular, but other Viennese composers, eager for the success of Strauss and Suppé, were writing operettas, and managers like Steiner and Jauner encouraged them. Millöcker, Zeller, Genée, and other composers and their librettists thus had their chances. Curiously, the libretti to almost all the great Viennese operettas of this period were by Genée and his partner, Zell.

The Viennese works of the 1870s and '80s were similar to the Parisian operettas in their dependence not only on popular composers but also on big stars, like Alexander Girardi or Marie Geistinger. On the whole, their plots were apt to be as sentimental as some of their French counterparts, and there were few in modern dress. The spectacular féeries were typically Parisian, however; Viennese managers were less inclined to spend such sums for works which were not expected to have long, consecutive runs. The lavishness and taste for which Paris was celebrated were rarely associated with Viennese operettas, which up to the 1920s were nearly always dowdily mounted, often with secondhand sets and costumes. The waltz, again, was of greater importance. Girardi himself was not known to have had a great voice, but voices were similarly subservient to the Viennese way with a waltz.

Comparatively few of these golden works are played today: the public has not clamored for their revival. Attempts to rekindle an interest in the less well

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