Newspaper article International New York Times

Marta Eggerth, 101, Star of Operettas on Stage and Screen

Newspaper article International New York Times

Marta Eggerth, 101, Star of Operettas on Stage and Screen

Article excerpt

A coloratura soprano, Ms. Eggerth was often compared to Maria Callas for her vocal facility, charm and ubiquity -- in opera houses, on the concert stage, in the movies and on Broadway.

Marta Eggerth, an operetta star in Europe and the United States who was almost certainly the last living link to the grand musical confections of Franz Lehar and Emmerich Kalman, died on Dec. 26 at her home in Rye, N.Y. She was 101.

Her son, the pianist Marjan Kiepura, confirmed the death.

A coloratura soprano, Ms. Eggerth was often called "the Maria Callas of operetta" for her vocal facility, great charm and sheer ubiquity -- in opera houses, on the concert stage, in the movies and on Broadway -- in the 1930s and long afterward.

For decades, she practically owned the title role in Lehar's most famous operetta, "The Merry Widow"; she sang it thousands of times, often opposite her husband, the celebrated Polish tenor Jan Kiepura.

Ms. Eggerth began singing as a child in her native Hungary and became a star as a teenager in Vienna in the period known as the Silver Age of operetta. Ushered in with the premiere of "The Merry Widow" in 1905, it was a time when the sprightly, tuneful work of Middle European composers like Lehar, Kalman and Oscar Straus was performed before devoted audiences worldwide.

With her husband, Ms. Eggerth starred in a hit revival of "The Merry Widow" that opened on Broadway in 1943, with choreography by George Balanchine and an English-language book co-written by Sidney Sheldon.

The couple returned to Broadway in 1945 for "Polonaise," a musical, set to the melodies of Chopin, based on the life of the 18th-century military hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko.

The only child of a banker and a dramatic soprano, Marta Eggerth was born in Budapest on April 17, 1912. A vocal prodigy, she began her career on the Budapest stage when she was about 9. …

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