Operetta: A Theatrical History

By Richard Traubner | Go to book overview

SILVER VIENNA

CLOSE on the heels of The Merry Widow were numerous Viennese operettas by other composers, mounted by the managers of the Theater an der Wien, the Carltheater, and other theatres, not only for the delectation of the Viennese but also for the scouts of international producers looking for operetta hits of the stature of Lehár's triumph. Almost any halfway decent Viennese work was bought for American, British, or French consumption, in addition to the usual traffic throughout Central and Northern Europe. Not all were presented, but among those that were, there was always the hope that another blockbuster would be found.

Bad Ischl, the spa near Salzburg, was at this time a hotbed of operetta composition, as it had been in the previous century. Composers and librettists would often retreat to hotel rooms and rented villas to turn out their masterpieces and their flops. If the "Tin Pan Alley" of Viennese operetta was not at Ischl, it was possibly at the numerous cafés in Vienna which catered to a theatrical clientèle.

Many composers were once café pianists, including Straus and Benatzky. Although there were doubtless rivalries between operetta creators, there was also a sense of camaraderie, especially among the more successful practitioners who often had their works alternately playing at the same theatres.

Leo Fall and Oscar Straus were consistently popular abroad, often rivaling Lehár and Kálmán, while works by several other composers and their usual librettists attained certain Viennese and Berliner, if not international, popularity. The supply of Viennese works was effectively cut off by World War I, during which time London, for example, was forced to turn to native efforts and ragtime revues for light entertainment. It was during the war that Vienna and Berlin saw some excellent operettas, like Die Csárdásfürstin and Die Rose von Stambul, shows that failed to repeat their success in the allied capitals after the

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