Francis Lopez (b Montbéliard, 15 June 1916, d Paris, 5 January 1995)

The brightest musical star of the postwar years in France, whose output frittered away into embarrassing imitations of himself after he had produced some of the happiest Parisian scores of the 1950s.

The brightest start of the Lopez operettas, and his most famous song.

The brightest start of the Lopez operettas, and his most famous song.

Trained as a dentist, Lopez had his first musical successes as a part-time songwriter before turning to the theatre for the first time in 1945. His initial opérette, La Belle de Cadix, a colourful, vivacious piece hastily written to play six weeks at the small Casino-Montparnasse, ran for two years and provided the French musical theatre with the same kind of new acceleration that Oklahoma! had recently provided in America. Lopez and his librettist/lyricist Raymond Vincy followed up with a series of like pieces for larger Parisian stages over the next decade, pieces which, like Oklahoma!, returned to the classic romantic operettic proportions in a deft textual and musical mixture of the sentimental and the comic set in the most colourful of venues (Andalousie, Pour Don Carlos, Le Chanteur de Mexico, À la Jamaïque, La Toison d’or, Méditerranée). Unlike their American counterparts, however, the pair also worked simultaneously on a number of more intimate comedy musicals such as Quatre Jours à Paris and La Route fleurie which were mounted at smaller venues with success equal to that won by their bigger shows, thus allowing Vincy and Lopez to dominate the postwar musical theatre large and small.

After Vincy’s death, Lopez continued writing ostensibly the same kind of pieces, to mostly much less able texts, supplying a series of often long-running if very obvious opérettes à grand spectacle to the large stage of Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet and only occasionally, as in Viva Napoli (1970), finding again the hearty freshness of his earlier work.

Familiar strains set to what became thin and painfully predictable libretti and feeble orchestrations became the order of the day in the 1980s as Lopez became his own producer at, successively, the Théâtre de la Renaissance, the Élysée Montmartre and the Eldorado, producing scrappily written and staged shows in which his then wife, Anya, and son, Rodrigo, often took a hand. Madame Lopez and her son were credited with the score for La Perle des Antilles (Théâtre de la Renaissance 17 February 1979) (nevertheless billed as `opérette de Francis Lopez’), and the younger Lopez also composed the music for his father’s production of Aventure à Tahiti (1988).

Whilst Lopez’s more recent shows, and intermittent revivals of his earlier ones, played to their particular audience at his Parisian base, contributing no little to the falling reputation and image of `opérette’ amongst the French younger generation, the provincial theatres of France continued to welcome productions of his earlier works, and even at the turn of the 21st century no season passes in the French theatre without numerous revivals of his best (and, occasionally, also his less good) musicals being seen in all corners of the hexagon.

Unsophisticated though it may often be, the rhythmic, sentimental and immensely singable music of his earliest opérettes is in the happiest tradition of popular light musical theatre, and his best scores remain as admirable as the last are inane.

When these are attached to the best of Vincy’s texts (Quatre Jours à Paris, Andalousie) they make up into delightful theatre pieces.

Several of Lopez’s early opérettes were made into films (La Belle de Cadix, Andalousie, Quatre Jours à Paris, Le Chanteur de Mexico, À la Jamaïque), and the composer also supplied songs and scores for a good number of musical films of the 1940s and 1950s, including Je n’aime que toi, L’Aventurier de Séville, Sérénade au Texas and the musical film remake of Violettes imperiales, composed for the theatre by Vincent Scotto.


A 1987 autobiography concentrated more on the composer’s career as a ladykiller than on his work for the theatre.

1945 La Belle de Cadix (Maurice Vandair/Raymond Vincy, Marc-Cab) Casino Montparnasse 24 December

1947 Andalousie (Vincy, Albert Willemetz) Théâtre de la Gaîté-Lyrique 25 October

1948 Quatre Jours à Paris (Vincy) Théâtre Bobino 28 February

1949 Monsieur Bourgogne (Vincy, Jean-Jacques Vital) Théâtre Bobino 12 March

1950 Pour Don Carlos (Vincy, André Mouëzy-Éon) Théâtre du Châtelet 17 December

1951 Le Chanteur de Mexico (Henri Wernert/Vincy, Félix Gandéra) Théâtre du Châtelet 15 December

1952 La Route fleurie (Vincy) Théâtre de l’ABC 19 December

1953 Soleil de Paris (Vincy) Théâtre Bobino 7 March

1954 À la Jamaïque (Vincy) Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin 24 January

1954 La Toison d’or (Vincy) Théâtre du Châtelet 18 December

1955 Méditerranée (Vincy) Théâtre du Châtelet 17 December

1956 El Aguila de fuego (Arturo Rigel, Francisco Ramos de Castro) Teatro Maravillas, Madrid 19 January

1957 Tête de linotte (Vincy) Théâtre de l’ABC 14 December

1957 Maria-Flora (w Henri Betti/Vincy) Théâtre du Châtelet 18 December

1957 La Cancion del amor mio (M Brocey, A Quintero, Arozamena) Madrid December

1958 S E la Embajadora (Rigel, Jesus M de Arozamena) Teatro Alcazar, Madrid 21 November

1959 Le Secret de Marco Polo (Vincy) Théâtre du Châtelet 12 December

1960 Dix millions cash! revised Monsieur BourgogneThéâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin 10 December

1961 Visa pour l’amour (Vincy) Théâtre de la Gaîté-Lyrique 22 December

1963 Cristobal le Magnifique (Vincy) Théâtre de l’Européen 21 December

1963 Le Temps des guitares (Vincy, Marc-Cab) Théâtre de l’ABC 28 October

1967 Le Prince de Madrid (Jacques Plante/Vincy) Théâtre du Châtelet 4 March

1969 La Caravelle d’or (Plante/Jean Valmy) Théâtre du Châtelet 19 December

1969 Viva Napoli (Daniel Ringold/René Jolivet) Lille, 20 December, Théâtre Mogador 4 September

1971 Restons françaises (w Anja Lopez/R Barbe) Théâtre des Capucines 24 December

1972 Gipsy (Ringold/Claude Dufresne) Théâtre du Châtelet 18 December

1974 Les Trois Mousquetaires (w Anja Lopez/Ringold/Jolivet) Théâtre du Châtelet 23 February

1975 Fiesta (Dufresne) Théâtre Mogador 23 February

1976 Volga (Plante, Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre du Châtelet 26 November

1980 Viva Mexico revised Fiesta (Plante, Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de la Renaissance 22 February

1981 Aventure à Monte-Carlo (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de la Renaissance 14 March

1981 Soleil d’Espagne (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de la Renaissance 3 October

1981 La Fête en Camargue (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de Saint-Etienne 3 December

1982 Le Vagabond tzigane (Ringold/Dufresne, Fernand Cayol) Théâtre de la Renaissance 2 October

1982 Vacances au soleil (Ringold/Dufresne, Cayol) Théâtre de Besancon 4 December

1983 L’Amour à Tahiti (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de l’Élysée-Montmartre 1 October

1984 Les Mille et une nuits (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de l’Élysée-Montmartre 6 October

1985 Carnaval aux Caraïbes (w Rodrigo Lopez/Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de l’Élysée-Montmartre 27 September

1986 Le Roi du Pacifique (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de l’Élysée-Montmartre 24 September

1987 Fandango (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de l’Élysée-Montmartre 16 January

1988 Rêve de Vienne (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de l’Eldorado 30 September

1989 La Marseillaise (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de l’Eldorado 7 July

1989 La Belle Otéro (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de l’Eldorado 30 September

1990 Portorico (Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de l’Eldorado 30 September

1991 Sissi (w R Lopez/Ringold/Dufresne, Nadine de Rotschild) Théâtre de l’Eldorado 8 September

1992 Mariane mes amours revised La Marseillaise Théâtre de l’Eldorado 26 September

1993 Les Belles et le gitan (w R Lopez/Ringold/Dufresne) Théâtre de l’Eldorado 9 October

Autobiography: Flamenco: la gloire et les larmes (Presses de la Cité, Paris, 1987)