The Light Stuff

In anticipation of LA Opera’s production of Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow,” which opens April 28, I’ll be running several Lehar-themed stories.

First off, I find a lazy Sunday is rarely complete without a few tunes from Lehar, and I keep recordings handly not just of “The Merry Widow” (the Cheryl Studer version), but also “The Land of Smiles,” “Giuditta” and “Der Zarewitsch.” They go well with a champagne breakfast.

Though “The Merry Widow” (1905) remains his most lasting work, it was composed quite early in Lehar’s career. Much of his oeuvre dates from after WW I, following a long dry period.

In 1922 Lehar discovered the young tenor Richard Tauber, who became his male muse. Lehar wrote six operettas for him between 1925 and 1934.

Also of note:

Lehar brought a greater depth of expression to light opera than previous composers. “I stumbled blindly into writing operetta,” he said later in life, “without any idea of what I was doing, but this helped me to find my own style.”

Lehár’s work was enjoyed by Hitler, who awarded him the Goethe Medal. Lehár himself had a Jewish wife and his friend and sometime-librettist Fritz Lohner was killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. (From Wikipedia’s entry on Lehar.)

In 1935 he founded his own publishing company, Glocken Verlag, which still controls the rights to his work.

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