Operetta: A Theatrical History

By Richard Traubner | Go to book overview

THE EMPEROR OF OPERETTA

EIGHTEEN sixty-seven was the year of the Universal Exposition in Paris. The visitors who came that spring to see the pavilions erected in the Champs de Mars also saw a new, Haussmann-ized city of wide boulevards, proud, pleasure-loving Parisians, and masses of fireworks and fêtes. Everyone crowded the boulevard theatres, the Opéra, with its new façade, and the waltz concerts conducted by a handsome Viennese visitor, Johann StraussII. As the Palais-Royal readied its production of La Vie Parisienne for an October 1866 opening, Hippolyte Cogniard, the manager of the Variétés, demanded a new piece from Offenbach and Meilhac and Halévy to open in time for the Exposition. The librettists commenced work on La Chambre rouge, but by mid-October Halévy would refer to the new work, with satisfaction, as La Grande-Duchesse. Gérolstein was added later, after the censors insisted there be no misunderstanding with Luxembourg. Gérolstein was a fictitious place created by the novelist Eugène Sue.

Having graciously invited Hortense Schneider to the première of La Vie Parisienne, Offenbach coaxed her into accepting a contract for the new operetta at the Variétés which would pay her 4,500 francs a month to play the Grand Duchess. However popular it may have been, her Boulotte in Barbe-Bleue would be nothing compared to the international fame she would receive as the fictitious monarch in the next Variétés operetta. Yet her well-known temperament disrupted rehearsals continuously, her personal version of the libretto being at odds with the librettists'. Dupuis, playing her paramour, Fritz, claimed at one point that he could sing his role only three times weekly, as it was too strenuous. Even Offenbach fussed: he wanted "touze" drums onstage for one military moment, but instead of twelve he had to settle for three.

-55-

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Operetta: A Theatrical History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction viii
  • Overture 1
  • Beginners, Please! 19
  • The Emperor of Operetta 55
  • Post-1870 Paris 75
  • Vienna Gold 103
  • The School of Strauss II 133
  • The Savoy Tradition 149
  • The Edwardesian Era 187
  • Fin De Siècle 221
  • The Merry Widow and Her Rivals 243
  • Silver Vienna 275
  • Continental Varieties 303
  • The West End 339
  • American Operetta 357
  • Broadway 377
  • Pasticcio and Zarzuela, Italy and Russia 423
  • Bibliography 434
  • Index 441
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