Two Weddings, One Bride: A Primer
Operas, musicals, operettas — these musical forms all sit somewhere on the same spectrum of entertainment. They are stories, set to music, performed on stage.
You can think of ‘operetta’, as the name implies, like a ‘little opera’. Operettas are often short, with frivolous stories and light music. Operettas don’t pretend at real life, they don’t present tragedies. They are created for diversion: to amuse and entertain.
French composer Hervé gets the credit for creating operetta. He penned L’Ours et le pacha in 1842, taking some of the conventions of opéra comique and marrying it with vaudeville.
But it was Jacques Offenbach’s elaborate, risqué works that really propelled operetta into the popular consciousness.
His music was infectious and his stories offered humour with bite (for example, Orpheus in the Underworld, 1858).
Best of all, his operettas were erotic and sometimes downright pornographic, performed by courtesans in Paris to theatres filled with men.
The giants of Viennese operetta took the form in a different direction. Johann Strauss wrote nostalgic, sentimental works, full of dance music and romance (think Die Fledermaus, 1874). Franz Lehár continued his legacy with The Merry Widow (1905). Emmerich Kálmán moved from Hungary to the hotspot of operetta, Vienna in the early twentieth century. He fused Viennese waltz with Hungarian folk dance.
Victor Herbert was the most famous American operetta composer (Naughty Marietta, 1910, Sweethearts, 1913).
We created this laugh-out-loud comedy to give some of the most delightful songs of operetta an outing.
The golden age of operetta in Europe gave the world a thousand hit melodies: songs, waltzes and polkas with unforgettable tunes. But the stories often let down the melody. Today, only a few operettas still make audiences howl with laughter.
Robert Greene took a farcical French story by Charles Lecocq and fashioned a score featuring all of your favourite songs by Strauss, Offenbach, Lehár and Kálmán. It’s like a jukebox musical, made of operetta.
The story takes place on one illustrious day: the wedding of identical twin girls, Giroflé and Girofla. But when pirates kidnap Girofla, Giroflé and her parents are forced into a ridiculous series of plots and schemes to keep two grooms blissfully unaware.
Joyful melodies, elaborate costumes and pretty sets will take you all the way to French Morocco in our very own operetta Two Weddings, One Bride.
L: Johann Strauss II. Photo by Fritz Luckhardt, restored by Adam Cuerdon. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Copyright: public domain.
R: Jacques Offenbach. Photo by Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, restored by Adam Cuerdon. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Copyright: public domain.
- Strauss had many names: Johann Strauss II, Johann Strauss Jr., Johann Strauss the Younger, Johann Strauss the Son, Johann Baptist Strauss. These were to distinguish him from his composer father, Johann Strauss I
- He wrote more than 500 pieces of dance music: waltzes, polkas and quadrilles
- He was so good at it, he was known as ‘The Waltz King’ in Vienna
- His most famous operetta is Die Fledermaus
- Offenbach wrote nearly 100 operettas and one, unfinished opera: The Tales of Hoffmann
- His works were funny, satirical, melodious and erotic
- He regularly lampooned members of the imperial court, who lapped it up. Napoleon III commanded a personal performance of Orpheus in the Underworld
- Napoleon III personally granted him French citizenship
L: Franz Lehár. Photo by Bain News Service, restored by Adam Cuerdon. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Copyright: public domain.
R: Emmerich Kálmán, circa 1920. Photographer unknown. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Copyright: public domain.
- Famous for The Merry Widow
- Lehár studied violin at the Prague conservatory, but none other than Antonín Dvořák encouraged him to study composition. He wasn’t allowed to have two specialties, and so taught himself!
- Lehár’s music was popular with Hitler and other Nazis. However, the composer frequently worked with Jewish librettists and was married to a Jewish woman
- The Nazi regime awarded his wife, Sophie, the status of ‘honorary Aryan’.
- Kálmán was born Imre Koppstein to a Jewish family.
- He played piano, but when early-onset arthritis scuttled his career as a concert pianist, he turned to composition.
- He composed 19 operettas, among other music.
- Hitler loved Kálmán's music. However, Kálmán refused his offer of ‘honorary Aryan’ status and emigrated to Paris, then the United States to escape the regime
L: Charles Lecocq, 1880. Photo by Pierre Petit. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Copyright: public domain.
R: Robert Stolz, circa 1915. Photographer unknown. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Copyright: public domain.
- Charles Lecocq studied at the Paris Conservatoire, winning prizes for harmony and fugue
- He became known when he won first prize in an operetta competition, convened by none other than Jacques Offenbach. He shared the prize with Georges Bizet
- He wrote vast numbers of operettas and variations of the form.
- Born to a concert pianist-mother and conductor-father, Stolz was a musical child
- By the age of seven he was touring Europe performing Mozart on the piano
- He wrote cabarets and composed film music
- He wrote 19 ‘ice operettas’, to be performed on the ice as part of the Vienna Ice Revue
The composers: Robert Greene working with the giants of operetta: Strauss, Offenbach, Lehár, Kalman, Lecocq and Stolz.
The music: the best waltzes, songs and dances from the golden age of operetta.
The setting: colonial French Morocco.
A quirky fact to impress your date: Adolf Hitler loved operetta, and made some Jewish composers and their associates 'honorary Aryans'.