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The chapter begins with a survey of musical comedy of the 1890s and early twentieth century. A brief account of Edward German and his operettas follows. Noël Coward established himself as a British operetta composer with Bitter Sweet in 1929. However, the person who did most to keep English operetta alive in the 1930s was the Welsh composer Ivor Novello (1893–1951). He gained a considerable amount of experience both as a composer for the stage and as an actor before completing his first operetta, Glamorous Night, in 1935. This chapter assesses Novello’s achievements, musical and dramatic, and investigates the critical reception of his operettas. It places him in the context of what came before (Fraser-Simson, Montague Phillips, Noël Coward) and what came after (Vivian Ellis, Julian Slade, Sandy Wilson).
It was exciting, no doubt, to watch silent films to the accompaniment of musical excerpts played by cinema orchestras, but the 1930s gave audiences the chance to see stars sing and act. That decade consequently offers valuable historical insight into vocal practice and performance technique. This chapter begins with an overview of freshly created screen operettas and of films adapting stage operettas. It briefly examines Die Drei von der Tankstelle (1930) and other German films, before moving to British and American films. The demands of film are contrasted with techniques required in the theatre. The chapter then looks at the practice of adaptation in Hollywood, and it ends with a discussion of the operetta Heimat film in Germany.
This introduction serves as an overview of the development of operetta and points to the neglect of operetta by many scholars of music and theatre. The editors begin by defining this genre, which is multi-faceted and often difficult to categorize. The introduction sets the stage for the following chapters by guiding the reader towards the important landmarks in the historical developments of operetta, such as those that occurred in France, Austria and London, and, in the twentieth century, in Berlin. In doing so, it also comments on notable composers and works. It concludes with some reflections on operetta reception in the twenty-first century.
Those whose thoughts of musical theatre are dominated by the Broadway musical will find this book a revelation. From the 1850s to the early 1930s, when urban theatres sought to mount glamorous musical entertainment, it was to operetta that they turned. It was a form of musical theatre that crossed national borders with ease and was adored by audiences around the world. This collection of essays by an array of international scholars examines the key figures in operetta in many different countries. It offers a critical and historical study of the widespread production of operetta and of the enthusiasm with which it was welcomed. Furthermore, it challenges nationalistic views of music and approaches operetta as a cosmopolitan genre. This Cambridge Companion contributes to a widening appreciation of the music of operetta and a deepening knowledge of the cultural importance of operetta around the world.
Operetta not only transferred across borders but also from one media platform to another, a characteristic of industrialized production termed ‘intermediality’. A stage show was a multilayered communication medium that connected to other media, such as sheet music, records, film, and radio. The term ‘remediation’ refers to a change from one medium to another, and there were various ways in which the music of operetta might be remediated. For example, it could be turned into sheet music for private pleasure playing the home piano, or, reemerge as a military band medley for the enjoyment of the public spending a leisurely afternoon in the park. Player pianos and piano rolls, which had been produced all around the globe, faced a period of decline in the1930s, as attention turned to radio and records. The arrival of radio effected a change in music dissemination and made the collection of performing rights imperative. Operettas provided the subject matter of a number of classic films of the silent era, and sound film operetta was also in demand in the 1930s, giving rise to the new genre of screen operetta.
German operetta of the early twentieth century was part of a transcultural entertainment industry involving cross-border financial and production networks, international rights management, and migrating musicians and performers. Collaboration networks, in which groups of people worked as a team, were the norm in operetta production. In the early 1910s and again in the 1920s, Berlin, London, and New York were competing for dominance of the musical theatre market, but these cities were also collaborating on the transfer of cultural goods. Internationalization was evident in the presence of overseas offices of major Berlin companies associated with the theatre. The buying of rights was one of the most important activities of the entrepreneur. The chapter includes a study of the financial management of Daly’s Theatre in the West End and examines the impact of the depression on the West End and Broadway.
It is clear that the productions in the West End and on Broadway of The Merry Widow marked a distinctive new phase in operetta reception. The massive success of The Merry Widow opened up a flourishing market for operettas from Vienna and Berlin. This was confirmed by the huge success of Straus’s The Chocolate Soldier in New York (1909) and London (1910). The Berlin operettas of Jean Gilbert were soon in demand in the West End and on Broadway. Continental European operetta entered a marketplace dominated by musical comedy. The first major blow to the operetta market, especially in the UK, was the outbreak of the First World War. After the war, many creators of operetta were eager to escape to the comfort of historical romances. In the first three decades of the twentieth century, many people were prepared to pay for operetta, and an assortment of theatres and ticket prices enabled a broad social mixture to do so. In addition to critical-aesthetic reception, theatrical productions were open to moral concerns. The chapter ends with reflections on the reasons for the decline in productions on Broadway and in the West End post-1933.