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Emmerich Kálmán’s melancholic waltzes

By Sigurd Neubauer


Known for his melancholic waltzes, Emmerich Kálmán’s (1882-1953) Countess Maritza remains his most popular work in the U.S. and in the English-speaking world. Premiered in Vienna, Austria, at the prestigious Theater an der Wien in 1924, and the following year in New York, it represents a new style in operetta, explains Kálmán biographer Dr. Stefan Frey in a podcast interview.

Frey is the author of Laughter Under Tears: Emmerich Kálmán.

While Kálmán’s first major international success – Die Csárdásfürstin (Gipsy Princess) – premiered during World War I (1915), with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the composer changed his style by including American Jazz themes into Countess Maritza as times were changing during the roaring 1920s. In a wide-ranging podcast interview, Frey compares and contrasts “Let’s Go to the Varasdin” and “Be Mine, My Love, Be Mine,” two beloved melodies from Countess Maritza and the musical styles they represent.

Countess Maritza – the heroine – has hired Tassilo as the new bailiff on her estate. Tassilo, of course, is a young and handsome aristocrat but he’s an impoverished Baron who has taken the job incognito to pay for his sister’s education. Temperament and pride delay the inevitable happy pairing-off of Maritza with Tassilo, and his sister Lisa with another nobleman from Maritza’s set of friends. The operetta is also filled with Hungarian flavored melodies, including haunting Gipsy ones. 

Countess Maritza is about an aristocrat who lost everything,

but eventually finds love through hard work and determination
Varaždin Castle, Croatia. "Let's Go to the Varasdin" is one of Kálmán’s most popular melodies
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