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The Sunday Opera: "Die Herzog von Chicago" and Highlights from "Grafin Mariza" by Emmerich Kalman.

We’re showcasing Hungarian composer Emmerich Kalman on this week’s Sunday Opera (3/14 3:00 p.m.) through two of his operettas: “Die Herzogin von Chicago” (‘The Duchess of Chicago”) and “Grafin Mariza” (“Countess Maritza”). 

During his lifetime, Kalman, who is all but forgotten today, was not only known for his own compositions but also for his dedication to the development of the artform now known as the Viennese operetta in general. 

We’ve got a complete recording with some of the dialogue of “The Duchess of Chicago” which centers on a bet made by American Mary Lloyd that she can buy “the most expensive thing in Europe.” This ends up with Mary offering the impoverished Prince Sandor a way to save his kingdom from bankruptcy if he will dance the Charlston with her. The problem is that the prince thinks that anything more modern than the waltz is an affront. You see, Mary has bought the prince’s palace, and she sets her sights on the prince to go with it. 

Of course there are mistaken identities, disguises, secret romances, and a happy ending along with some absolutely glorious music. 

The cast for this recording from 1999 features Endrik Wottrich as Prince Sandor, Monica Groop as Princess Rosemarie, Deborah Riedel as Mary Lloyd, and Brett Polegato as James Bondy along with Par Lindskog, Volker Horn, Reinhart Ginzel, Peter Menzel, and Egbert Junghanns. Who are these people? You’ll just have to tune in this Sunday to find out. They’re joined by the Berlin Radio Chorus and Orchestra and the Schoenberg Boys Choir with Richard Bonynge conducting. 

Our second Kalman work features highlights from a more familiar work, in Europe at least, “Countess Maritza.” Once again, we have a wealthy woman, Maritza, who owns a series of large agricultural estates in the Balkans and an impoverished nobleman, Count Tassilo who is in disguise to try to be hired as the overseer for one of Maritza’s estates. 

Once again, we have mistaken identities, secret loves, crazy wagers, far too much pride, and enough reconciliation for there to be another wonderfully happy ending. 

In this 1975 recording, we’ll hear Erzebet Hazy as the Countess, Rene Kollo as Count Tassilo, Dagmar Koller is Lisa, Ljuba Welitsch as Princess Bozena, and Kurt Huemer as Koloman Zuspan, with Benno Kusche, Olivera Miljakovic, and Zoltan Latinovic. They’re supported by the Vienna Operetta Chorus and The Vienna Symphony with Wolfgang Ebert conducting. 

If you don’t know the works of Kalman, please tune in – you won’t be disappointed.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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