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Emmerich Kalman's Countess Maritza highlights this week on The Lyric Stage

All of impoverished Vienna is wooing the rich Countess Maritza on The Lyric Stage this Sunday (2/26 at 8 pm).

For many people in Vienna in 1924, economic times were hard, and so it is in the operetta. This makes the Countess Maritza, who is a wealthy land owner, a target for wooing. She is constantly under siege by impoverished noblemen who want to marry her. To protect herself from these gold diggers, she makes up a fiancé, the fictitious Baron Koloman Zsupán (a character from Johann Strauss’s “Der Zigeunerbaron”). To Maritza’s surprise a lovelorn baron of that very name turns up to claim her as his fiancée. Meanwhile, Maritza is falling in love with one of her staff, the bailiff Bela Törek, who is in reality Count Tassilo, an impoverished nobleman who has taken on the work to pay off his father’s debts and amass enough money for a dowry for his sister Lisa, who believe it or not also shows up. The usual confusion ensues. People think Lisa is the Count's mistress, etc., but it all sorts out - Lisa marries the fake Baron and Tasillio and the Countess Maritza wed and live happily ever after.

22 year old Anton Pawlik conducted the premiere of Countess Maritza in 1924 in Vienna, and he is the conductor on this 1960 recording of highlights of the operetta we have this week. Pawlik spent nearly two decades at the Theater an der Wien, and in 1938 went to the Vienna Volksoper, where he remained active as the head of the section devoted to the classical operetta repertory until his death in 1978. His discography is almost exclusively in that music, and one critic describes his conducting as idiomatic. Countess Maritza is still a popular centerpiece of the Vienna Volksoper repertory.

The cast from this 1960 performance is headed by Herbert Prikopa as the Count and Marika Nemeth as Maritza. Others are Sonja Draksler, Peter Minich. The Grosstadt Children's choir, Elemer Horvath Gypsy band, and the Vienna Volksoper Chorus and Orchestra.

Mike Harrah is host of The Lyric Stage, which airs Sundays at 8 pm.