Celebrating Franz Lehár’s 150th Birthday With New Books At Böhlau

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
12 March, 2020

It’s Franz Lehár’s 150th birthday coming up in April, and various authors and publishing houses are getting ready to celebrate the event with new releases. Stefan Frey is reworking his profound old Was sagt ihr zu diesem Erfolg“: Franz Lehár und die Unterhaltungsmusik im 20. Jahrhundert into Franz Lehár: Der letzte Operettenkönig, coming out at Böhlau on 6 April. The same publishing company is also releasing a “Lesebuch” (“reader”) called Dein ist mein ganzes Herz, with various essays by different authors on the composer’s life and oeuvre.

Stefan Frey's new "Franz Lehár: Der letzte Operettenkönig." (Photo: Böhlau Verlag)

Stefan Frey’s new “Franz Lehár: Der letzte Operettenkönig.” (Photo: Böhlau Verlag)

The Lehár reader contains nine articles by Kai-Uwe Garrels, Helga Maria Leitner, Heide Stockinger, Wolfgang Dosch, Eduard Barth, and Michael Lakner. Plus an introduction by Christoph Wagner-Trenkwitz. The usual suspects, you might think, for an “Austrian” operetta publication.

Though I admit the Wagner-Trenkwitz text, written with “megalomanic humility” is amusing as a quick survey of the greatest Lehár disaster productions of recent years. Among them the Lustige Witwe at Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden were Danilo and Hanna land on a desert island during a plane crash, the roles were taken by Siegfried Jerusalem and Nadja Michael, who has a “very sexy” speech impediment, Mr. Trenkwitz writes, raving about her singing “Lippen schweigen” with that impediment.

Many of the topics are interesting, indeed. And even newish. For example a chapter devoted to La danza delle libellule, in which Mr. Barth examines Lehár’s “encounter” with Italian operetta.

Other chapters are devoted to Friederike and “Singspiel,” Juxheirat and “The Early Years,” but also Rastelbinder and the “Aryanization of Operetta.” Mr. Garrel’s gives us a “biographical overview,” and Miss Leitner re-visits the famous Lehár-Schlössl in Bad Ischl.

The Lehár reader "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz." (Photo: Böhlau Verlag)

The Lehár reader “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz.” (Photo: Böhlau Verlag)

Whether the world really needs to hear from Mr. Lakner, of all people, about “How to stage Lehár in the 21st century?” is probably a question of perspective. His efforts at the Lehár Festival in Ischl and now at the theater in Baden bei Wien make it doubtful that he has anything substantial to say on the subject. But hey, it’s Austria, right? (They are busy with their own “traditions,” however untimtley they might seem in view of – anything.)

There are some wonderful images that are not well-know, among them Lehár next to composer Heinrich Reinhardt in 1903, and a dashing portrait of the up-and-coming composer in the same year.

Lehár r.) together with colleague Heinrich Reinhardt, composer of the 1901 hit "Das Süße Mädel." (Photo from "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" / Böhlau Verlag)

Lehár r.) together with colleague Heinrich Reinhardt, composer of the 1901 hit “Das Süße Mädel.” (Photo from “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” / Böhlau Verlag)

It’s a pity that such valuable new publications and re-issues are only coming out in German where there is a vast amount of literature on Lehár and related themes already. Is no one interested in spreading the word to the world at large, including the English speaking world?

Does globalization stop when it comes to operetta? It seems so.

For more information visit the website of Böhlau.