The Golden Age Of Operetta

RUDOLF FRIML(1879-1972)

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America’s cultural roots lie deeply in European soil, and this most definitely includes the glories of American Popular Song in its twentieth century heyday.

Before Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Kern, Rodgers, Hammerstein & Co., there was European Operetta filling the theatres of all the great continental capitals. From Vienna, the Strausses and Lehar; from Paris, Offenbach; from London, Gilbert & Sullivan: exotic locales, derring-do drama, gorgeously lush melodies, romance, sentiment & color at fever pitch.

Logically, it would be classically trained Europeans who would bring Old World-style Operetta to these shores, melding naturally with the emerging new American Musical Theatre.

The Irish composer Victor Herbert reigned supreme on Broadway from the 1890s into the 1920s when the Bohemian Rudolf Friml and Hungarian Sigmund Romberg would create their most popular works. Influencing such American figures as lyricist/liberttists Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II, Operetta would gradually evolve into the American Musical, most notably SHOW BOAT, (1927).

THE GOLDEN AGE OF OPERETTA celebrates the rich melodies, romance and gaiety that preceded the onset of a distinctly American Musical Theatre: Strauss’ DIE FLEDERMAUS (1874); Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. PINAFORE (1878); Lehar’s THE MERRY WIDOW (1907); Herbert’s THE FORTUNE TELLER (1898), MLLE. MODISTE (1905), MISS DOLLY DOLLARS (1905), NAUGHTY MARIETTA (1910), THE ENCHANTRESS (1911), SWEETHEARTS (1914), EILEEN (1917); Friml’s THE FIREFLY (1912), ROSE-MARIE (1924), The VAGABOND KING (1925); Romberg’s MAYTIME (1917), THE STUDENT PRINCE (1924), THE DESERT SONG (1926), THE NEW MOON (1928), UP IN CENTRAL PARK (1945).

These works and their beloved songs provide a reflection of a more positive bygone age sorely missed but accessible through its musical treasures. The flavor of operetta is always sweet, endings invariably happy.

If you would like to engage Fred Miller for one of his Lectures-in-Song, please contact him directly at any time. For a full listing of all Lectures, click here.

Fred Miller’s Lectures-In-Song comprise a series of solo programs, each an historical, anecdotal and musical profile of some great personality or important aspect of American Popular Song. These Lectures are delivered by singer/pianist/narrator Miller at the piano, and each reflects his lifetime passion and appreciation for great music. He studied classical piano in his hometown of Albuquerque from ages 7-15 but early on gave up any notion of music as a profession. At that time, Fred assumed a musical career was either one devoted to the rigid discipline of classical music or being a freewheeling rock star, and he accurately decided he had no aptitude for either. However, at age 22, upon hearing Ella Fitzgerald sing Cole Porter, he found his calling and life’s mission.

Through the Seventies and Eighties, Miller studied and absorbed in minute detail the life and times and songs of nearly all the great American composers and lyricists who thrived during Broadway & Hollywood’s Golden Age between the two World Wars. In 1987, he founded Silver Dollar Productions in order to produce operettas, dramas, musicals and small cabarets. Silver Dollar Productions required ensemble casts, props, costumes and, most significantly, the challenges of publicity and selling tickets, and for a dozen busy years, the company presented an unbroken string of varied and highly lauded performances.

In 1999, Miller was simultaneously underwritten by both his local Hunterdon County Library and the Art Alliance of Philadelphia to present a series of six solo Lectures-In-Song, each devoted to one of the premiere Broadway/Hollywood songwriters: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlen.

In presenting history, biography and psychology while sitting at a piano singing the superlative songs of his heroes, Miller has found a single performing medium that utilizes most of his intellectual and musical passions.The list of Lectures-In-Song that began with six in 1999 is now more than seventy(and growing!), a joyful tribute to the boundlessly rich field of American Popular Song.