“The Csárdás Princess” In London: The World-Tour Continues

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
26 November, 2016

Over 100 years after its world-premiere, Emmerich Kálmán’s The Csárdás Princess comes to London once more on 28 November 2016. The production, which is jointly organised by the Hungarian Cultural Centre and Pentaton Artist and Concert Management, will be shown at St. Paul’s Church Covent Garden and introduce highlights from the Kalman operetta. The show became an instand hit back in 1915 after its Vienna world premiere, but because of World War I it was seen by some as a show from an „enemy” country – which is why the first UK production wasn’t mounted until 1921. Unlike other operettas, Csardasfürstin has never become an established “repertoire classic” in Great Britain. So here is a chance for British audiences to discover the piece afresh.

The soloists of the Budapest Operetta Theater in London. (Photo: BOT)

The soloists of the Budapest Operetta Theater in London. (Photo: BOT)

The star soloists, accompanied by the Quintet of the Orchestra of Budapest Operetta and Musical Theatre, have already performed this particular highlight version of the show, to much acclaim, in Vienna, Brussels, Moscow and New Delhi.

“It is impossible to compose music when you hear the racket of canons and machine guns from the frontline where people are killing each other,” wrote Kálmán in 1914. Yet he did finish composing The Csárdás Princess and despite  World War I it  was staged in Sweden, Finland, Poland, Russia, Italy and in Budapest in November 1916, and finally, a year later it even made it to Broadway in New York. The British writer P. G. Wodehouse, who adapted the play for the American stage, said, “Not only does The Csárdás Princess excel this talented Hungarian’s compositions, but it is downright the greatest music of all time.” (He had some more negative things to say about the original libretto, but that’s another story; for more information on the Broadway and UK version, check out this video lecture.)

Sheet music cover for "Life's a Tale" from Kálmán's "The Rviera Girl."

Sheet music cover for “Life’s a Tale” from Kálmán’s “The Rviera Girl.”

Though the British had to wait longer than American operetta fans, London did get a new English version – not re-written by P. G. Wodehouse – on 20 May 1921 at the Prince of Walter Theatre, as The Gipsy Princess. There have been various important British revivals and recordings of Csardasfürstin in recent decades. But this performance at St Paul’s church offers Hungarian soloists that represent a very different performance style that typical UK soloists. So it’ll be an interesting – and pleasant – expansion of the local operetta horizon. And it should certainly be interesting to see Hungarian tenor star  Attila Dolhai in the context of West End performers, since he’s one of the mosst unusual and charismatic operetta heroes around.

The Hungarian soloists performing a "travelling edition" of "Csardasfürstin" with chamber orchestra. (Photo: Budapest Operetta Theater)

The Hungarian soloists performing a “travelling edition” of “Csardasfürstin” with chamber orchestra. (Photo: Budapest Operetta Theater)

For further details, a list of musical numbers and full cast, click here.