Wednesday, September 25, 2013


REVIEW (Bonynge, audio)

DIE HERZOGIN VON CHICAGO (The Duchess of Chicago) Emmerich Kálmán (1882-1953)
This is a classy piece, classified as a Viennese operetta (a grand operetta, even), but it is also an American musical (1928) by the composer of many such works, notably Countess Maritza (1924). It highlights the Csardas and the Charleston. The Hungarian composer was equally at home in Vienna, Budapest, Broadway, and Hollywood. He did a muscial drama movie with Oscar Hammerstein II in 1930. He died in Paris. He was Jewish, but Hitler loved his music, it is rumoured.
The character James Bondy is Jewish, and the joke is that when Jews fled from Europe to America they made movies or composed music for movies; and this "James Bond" before his time wins a princess.
Richard Bonynge recorded it (as a grand operetta, so to speak) in Berlin (1999) without Joan Sutherland.

Volksoper Wien (2005) conductor Michael Tomaschek. New version by Stefan Frey and Dominik Wilgenbus.
The Duchess (Miss Mary Lloyd from Chicago) Norine Burgess (from Canada)
The Prince (Sándor Boris of Sylvaria, note it is aria not ania) Mehrzad Montazeri (born in Teheran, Iran)
 The big difference between them (besides his lack of money) is that Sandor likes the csardas, the waltz, and Gypsy music, but Mary loves the charleston, the foxtrot, and American jazz.

[1] The Eccentric Young Ladies Club in New York
Daughters of opulent fathers (Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, etc) watch a tear-jerker movie in the 1920s (Greta Garbo is seen).  Mary makes a bet of 1 million dollars with her friends that she can buy a Prince before her next birthday. Their projectionist and toy-boy, James Bondy (come again?) says  the Prince of Sylvaria needs a royal wedding and an injection of American funds to save his country.
[2]  The Royal Palace in Sylvaria
Hereditary Prince Sandor Boris is celebrating his birthday. Minister of State Perolin is urging him to marry the equally indigent Princess Rosemarie of Morenia, whereas Finance Minister Bojazowitsch wants him to marry for money. The Prince and Princess are not in love, but are willing to wed.
[3]  The Grill Américaine nightclub in Budapest
Mary is paying the gypsy jazzband (!) to play the foxtrot and charleston; Prince Sándor (disguised as his adjutant Count Negrescu) wants Viennese music (waltz, czardas). Conflict!
[4]  The Royal Residence in Sylvaria
James Bondy, as Mary’s agent,  offers the two ministers a fortune for the palace. As he tours the interior in preparation for the film he will make, he becomes acquainted with Princess Rosemarie, and she strings along with him.  The Prince wants to reject the offer. Mary still does not realize that the adjutant is not the Prince and makes fun of him; but Sandor finally reveals himself and accepts Mary’s offer;  he departs from his ancestral home in grand style.
[5]  The Pleasure Temple of the Duchess
A month later, Mary is now comfortably (not to say riotously) installed in her mansion (formerly the Royal Residence) and it has become a temple of pleasure. It is her birthday, and to win her wager she must purchase her prince immediately. Prince Sandor is secretly practising the  charleston with Soljanka, Princess Rosemarie’s younger sister, while Mary is learning  the waltz.  Prince Sandor  asks Mary to give him a guided tour of the gaudy place, his erstwhile palace; what we get is a fantasia. Mary becomes an Amerindian squaw (as in Rose Marie I love you?) and Sandor is a cowboy; they are in a canoe on the Missouri river.
Sandor now learns about the bet.
King Pankraz has sent a telegram conferring the title Duchess on Mary; there will be a celebration.
The girls from the NY Young Ladies Club come to see if they have won a million dollars each.
Sandor announces his engagement: to Princess Rosemarie (in accordance with tradition), not Duchess Mary. Both women are disappointed, we could say.
[6]  The Grill Américaine nightclub in Budapest
James Bondy is still making his film “Happy End”, but he is unsure of the outcome.
King Pankraz XXVII comes to Budapest to court Mary and her money.
Prince Sandor becomes jealous of his uncle, and so Mary wins and marries her prince.
Rosemarie will stay with Bondy and play the leading role in his movie.
The charleston is seen as an American csardas, and a new dance is born: the charlesdas.

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