NOTE: This In Performance broadcast (2 June 2013) will begin at 3pm, one half hour earlier than usual.
Emmerich Kálmán’s operetta Zsuzsi Kisasszony (Miss Susie) premiered in Hungarian in February of 1915 at Budapest’s Vig Theatre.
The next year it made its way to Broadway – effectively rewritten in English by none other than P G Wodehouse – under the title of Miss Springtime. In 1917 it was presented in German at Vienna’s Johann Strauss Theater as Die Faschingsfee (The Carnival Fairy), with a libretto by A M Willner and Rudolf Oesterreicher.
Kálmán’s name changed about as many times as his operetta’s! He was born in Siófok, Hungary on 24 October 1882 as Imre Koppstein. His heritage was Jewish, and when he applied for entrance to the Protestant gymnasium (secondary school) in Budapest, he took the surname Kálmán. He changed his first name to Emmerich when his works began to gain popularity in Vienna.
Like many composers of earlier times, Kálmán first studied law, after abandoning an initial desire to be a tailor. For a time he thought he might become a pianist, but physical problems – neuritis – drove him toward composition. He studied at the Budapest Music Academy (now the National Hungarian Royal Academy of Music).
Kálmán’s early orchestral works brought him the Franz Josef Prize of Budapest. However, he found popular success in musical theatre with his first operetta, Tatarjaras, Ein Herbstmanoever (An Autumn Maneuver, which OLO produced as Autumn Maneuvers in 2002). After it became a massive hit in Vienna, he moved there, and quickly expanded his popularity with such works as Die Csardasfuerstin (OLO, The Gypsy Princess, 1986, 1993, 2010) and Graefin Mariza (OLO, Countess Maritza, 1985, 1989, 1994, 2003).
Miss Springtime, as performed by Ohio Light Opera last summer (2012), was OLO artistic director Stephen Daigle’s English reworking of the Viennese version, Die Faschingsfee. It has been issued on CD by Albany Records under the title The Carnival Fairy.
Act 1 places us amid Carnival celebrations at a Munich tavern. Painter Viktor Ronai is toasting his victory in an art competition – he’ll receive a prize of DM50,000! This is a generous stipend for a starving artist: adjusting for inflation, 1915′s DM50,000 would be over US$266,000 today.
Countess Alexandra, driving her car, has a minor accident and is surrounded by a group of the Carnival revelers. She joins them. Not knowing who she is, they declare her Miss Springtime, the Carnival queen.
After a short chat with Alexandra, Hubert introduces her – incognito – to Viktor. She is immediately drawn to him. They drink champagne. Meanwhile, Hubert’s girlfriend, Lori, threatens to leave him over his brief conversation with Alexandra.
Count Meredith arrives. Thinking the masked Alexandra a commoner, he makes advances to her. She clearly doesn’t appreciate his attention, though, so Viktor steps forward to defend her honor. Unbeknownst to Viktor, however, Meredith has funded his award. Now he withdraws it! "A chaperone of working girls will never get my prize," he vows.
Alexandra begs Viktor’s forgiveness: "I’ve destroyed this opportunity for you … Perhaps I can do something for you?" Viktor asks only that she see him again.
Act 2 opens in Viktor’s studio, where he has painted Miss Springtime from memory. He is entertaining his friends lavishly: he has received his prize after all! Not only that, but his benefactor has also paid to renovate his studio. One thing is missing from his life, though. He still doesn’t know the identity of Miss Springtime – and he’s smitten with her.
The bohemians disperse and Hubert enters. He has two revelations for us. First, this very night, Alexandra is to be betrothed to Duke Ottokar. Second, it’s she, not Meredith, who has funded Viktor’s award and studio. Viktor returns, and it’s again abundantly clear: Alexandra is about to marry the wrong person.
Meredith enters and Viktor thanks him for his generosity. But, says he, I didn’t send the money! Meredith, thinking Hubert provided the prize, reimburses him. But what Meredith really wants to know is – what happened to the "chorus girl" who so attracted him the night of Carnival? Hubert tells him that she is the "Cannon Countess" with the circus.
Meredith has been invited to a party with Duke Ottokar, so he takes his leave. Alexandra frets. The party is her surprise betrothal! What will happen when Meredith recognizes the "Cannon Countess" there? "I can’t help it," she sighs; "It’s my mischievous Hungarian heritage."
Hubert gives Meredith’s prize reimbursement to Alexandra for safekeeping. Hubert’s girlfriend Lori sees this, and in Viktor’s presence, accuses Hubert of proposing to Alexandra. Shocked, Victor rejects Alexandra. Duke Ottokar enters, and Viktor learns that not only has Hubert tried to buy Alexandra’s love, she’s already engaged to the Duke! Devastated, Viktor casts his painting of her into the fire.
Act 3 takes place at the Hotel Regina, where Countess Alexandra and Duke Ottokar are about to announce their engagement. Viktor enters. He tells Hubert he is leaving, and wants to return the stipend that he thinks Hubert funded. Hubert confesses that the money came from Alexandra. Viktor, ashamed, apologizes to Alexandra for his rude behavior. She refuses to speak with him, but instead dictates a letter of acknowledgement to Hubert.
To her shock, when Hubert delivers the letter to Viktor, it has become a declaration of love! Hubert confesses to Duke Ottokar, "Yes, I wrote it. But it’s true: she loves him, he loves her, and they are meant to be together."
Duke Ottokar calls in all the guests. "In the spirit of Carnival, a deception has been played," he announces. "I’ve invited you here not for my own engagement, but to announce the engagement of Countess Alexandra Maria to the painter Viktor Ronai." The company all applaud, and Alexandra and Viktor sing a duet. Once again, love conquers all, as the curtain falls on Miss Springtime.
|Countess Alexandra||Tara Sperry|
|Viktor Ronai||Grant Knox|
|Count Meredith||Stephen Faulk|
|Duke Ottokar||Mark Snyder|
|OHIO LIGHT OPERA|
|Artistic Director||Steven Daigle|