THERE is a parallel between the inception of Viennese operetta and the beginning of the Parisian variety. Franz von Suppé's position in Vienna was quite similar to Hervé's in Paris. One could say that both were the first major operetta composers—even creators—in their respective cities, but both were superseded by other musicians within a few years: Jacques Offenbach, and Johann Strauss II. And later, after periods of eclipse, both sprang back with three-act works in the Offenbach or Strauss style which were more deliriously popular than anything they had written previously.
Both Suppé and Strauss were specifically influenced by Offenbach. Suppé's early short works frankly imitated Offenbach's, and Strauss was said to have been personally coaxed by the French master to compose for the stage. But if the structure was unmistakably Parisian (as much derived from Meilhac and Halévy as from Offenbach), the music would become unmistakably, unforgettably, Viennese in the space of a very short time.
La Belle Hélène was a tremendous hit in Vienna in 1865 (Theater an der Wien), confirming a rage for French operetta that persisted for at least another decade. At the same time, when Strauss was composing some of his greatest concert waltzes, many of the popular French operettas contained similarly popular waltzes. In January 1874, the Viennese saw Lecocq's La Fille de Madame Angot, which, like La Belle Hélène, had a sweeping Act II finale waltz. It was inevitable that the waltz would grow in prominence within the confines of the new Viennese operetta. By April of that year, Strauss gave Vienna and the world the greatest of all Viennese operettas, Die Fledermaus, the golden standard by which other Viennese operettas are measured today. No one wrote waltzes like Strauss, and no one would write waltz-operettas like Strauss, though legions tried. Since Die Fledermaus, no self-respecting Viennese operetta could get away from the fact