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Sigmund Romberg

Sigmund Romberg

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Sigmund Romberg was a Hungarian-born American composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

, best known for his operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

s.

Biography


Romberg was born as Siegmund Rosenberg to a Jewish family in Gross-Kanizsa (Hungarian: Nagykanizsa) during the Austro-Hungarian
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 kaiserlich und königlich (Imperial and Royal) monarchy period. He went to Vienna to study engineering, but he also took composition lessons while living there. He moved to the United States in 1909 and, after a brief stint working in a pencil factory, was employed as a pianist in cafés. He eventually founded his own orchestra and published a few songs, which, despite their limited success, brought him to the attention of the Shubert brothers
Shubert family
The Shubert family of New York City, New York was responsible for the establishment of the Broadway district, in New York City, as the hub of the theatre industry in the United States...

, who in 1914 hired him to write music for their Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 shows. That year he wrote his first successful Broadway revue
Revue
A revue is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance and sketches. The revue has its roots in 19th century American popular entertainment and melodrama but grew into a substantial cultural presence of its own during its golden years from 1916 to 1932...

, The Whirl of the World.

Romberg's adaptation of melodies by Franz Schubert
Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer.Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies , liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music...

 for Blossom Time
Das Dreimäderlhaus
Das Dreimäderlhaus , adapted into English language versions as Blossom Time and Lilac Time, is a Viennese pastiche 'operetta' with music by Franz Schubert, rearranged by Hungarian Heinrich Berté , and a libretto by Alfred Maria Willner and Heinz Reichert...

(1921, produced in the UK as Lilac Time) was a great success. He subsequently wrote his best-known operettas, The Student Prince
The Student Prince
The Student Prince is an operetta in four acts with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Dorothy Donnelly. It is based on Wilhelm Meyer-Förster's play Alt Heidelberg. The piece has elements of melodrama but lacks the swashbuckling style common to Romberg's other works...

(1924), The Desert Song
The Desert Song
The Desert Song is an operetta with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach and Frank Mandel. It was inspired by the 1925 uprising of the Riffs, a group of Moroccan fighters, against French colonial rule. It was also inspired by stories of Lawrence of...

(1926) and The New Moon
The New Moon
The New Moon is the name of an operetta with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Frank Mandel, and Laurence Schwab. The show was the third and last in a string of Broadway hits for Romberg written in the style of Viennese operetta...

(1928), which are in a style similar to the Viennese operettas of Franz Lehár
Franz Lehár
Franz Lehár was an Austrian-Hungarian composer. He is mainly known for his operettas of which the most successful and best known is The Merry Widow .-Biography:...

. He also wrote Rosalie (1928) together with George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

. His later works, such as Up in Central Park
Up in Central Park
Up in Central Park is a Broadway musical with a book by Herbert Fields and Dorothy Fields, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and music by Sigmund Romberg...

(1945), are closer to the American musical
Musical theatre
Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

 in style, but they were less successful. Romberg also wrote a number of film score
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

s and adapted his own work for film.

Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 asked Romberg to conduct orchestral arrangements of his music (which he had played in concerts) for a series of recordings from 1945 to 1950 that were issued both on 78-rpm and 33-1/3 rpm discs. These performances are now prized by record collectors. Naxos Records
Naxos Records
Naxos Records is a record label specializing in classical music. Through a number of imprints, Naxos also releases genres including Chinese music, jazz, world music, and early rock & roll. The company was founded in 1987 by Klaus Heymann, a German-born resident of Hong Kong.Naxos is the largest...

 digitally remastered the recordings and issued them in the U.K. (They cannot be released in the U.S. because Sony BMG, which acquired Columbia Records, holds the copyright for their American release.) Much of Romberg's music, including extensive excerpts from his operettas, was released on LP during the 1950s and 1960s, especially by Columbia, Capitol, and RCA Victor. Nelson Eddy
Nelson Eddy
Nelson Ackerman Eddy was an American singer and actor who appeared in 19 musical films during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as in opera and on the concert stage, radio, television, and in nightclubs. A classically trained baritone, he is best remembered for the eight films in which he costarred...

 and Jeanette MacDonald
Jeanette MacDonald
Jeanette MacDonald was an American singer and actress best remembered for her musical films of the 1930s with Maurice Chevalier and Nelson Eddy...

, who appeared in an MGM adaptation of The New Moon in 1940, regularly recorded and performed his music. There have also been periodic revivals of the operettas.

Romberg married twice. His first wife, whom he married in 1908, was actress–lyricist Dorothy Donnelly
Dorothy Donnelly
Dorothy Donnelly was a stage actress, playwright, producer, librettist, and lyricist. She made famous the play Madame X on the Broadway stage in 1910 and in a 1916 silent film, the first filming of the story...

, the marriage ending in 1923. His second was Lillian Harris.

Romberg died in 1951, aged 64, in New York City and was interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery
Ferncliff Cemetery
Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum is located on Secor Road in the hamlet of Hartsdale, town of Greenburgh, Westchester County, New York, about 25 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. It was founded in 1902, and is non-sectarian...

 in Hartsdale, New York
Hartsdale, New York
Hartsdale is a hamlet and a census-designated place located in the town of Greenburgh, Westchester County, New York. The population was 5,293 at the 2010 census.-Geography:Hartsdale is located at ....

.

Media


Romberg was the subject of the 1954 Stanley Donen
Stanley Donen
Stanley Donen ; is an American film director and choreographer whose most celebrated works are Singin' in the Rain and On the Town, both of which he co-directed with Gene Kelly. His other noteworthy films include Royal Wedding, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face, Indiscreet, Damn...

-directed film Deep in My Heart, in which he was portrayed by José Ferrer
José Ferrer
José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón , best known as José Ferrer, was a Puerto Rican actor, as well as a theater and film director...

.

His operetta The New Moon was the basis for two film adaptations, both titled New Moon; the 1930 version
New Moon (1930 film)
New Moon is the name of two different film versions of the operetta The New Moon with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and others. The original stage version premiered on Broadway in 1928...

 starred Lawrence Tibbett
Lawrence Tibbett
Lawrence Mervil Tibbett was a great American opera singer and recording artist who also performed as a film actor and radio personality. A baritone, he sang with the New York Metropolitan Opera company more than 600 times from 1923 to 1950...

 and Grace Moore
Grace Moore
Grace Moore was an American operatic soprano and actress in musical theatre and film. She was nicknamed the "Tennessee Nightingale." Her films helped to popularize opera by bringing it to a larger audience.-Early life:...

 in the main roles, and the 1940 version starred Jeanette MacDonald
Jeanette MacDonald
Jeanette MacDonald was an American singer and actress best remembered for her musical films of the 1930s with Maurice Chevalier and Nelson Eddy...

 and Nelson Eddy
Nelson Eddy
Nelson Ackerman Eddy was an American singer and actor who appeared in 19 musical films during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as in opera and on the concert stage, radio, television, and in nightclubs. A classically trained baritone, he is best remembered for the eight films in which he costarred...

.

"Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise
Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise
"Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" is a song with music by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II from the 1928 operetta The New Moon. One of the best-known numbers from the show, it is a song of bitterness and yearning for a lost love, sung in the show by Philippe , the best friend of the hero,...

" and "Lover, Come Back to Me
Lover, Come Back to Me
"Lover, Come Back to Me" is a popular song. The music was written by Sigmund Romberg with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II for the Broadway show The New Moon, where the song was introduced by Evelyn Herbert and Robert Halliday...

" from The New Moon are still jazz-blues/soft-jazz classics; the first was performed by many jazz performers, the second is best known by Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing...

.

Sources

  • Gänzl, Kurt
    Kurt Gänzl
    Kurt Gänzl is an award-winning writer, musicologist, casting director and singer best known for his books about musical theatre....

    . The Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre (3 Volumes). New York: Schirmer Books, 2001.
  • Traubner, Richard
    Richard Traubner
    Richard Traubner is an American journalist, author, operetta scholar and historian, and lecturer on theatre and film. His book on the history of operetta was first published in 1983 and won the 17th annual ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. Traubner is a frequent contributor to Opera News, The New York...

    . Operetta: A Theatrical History. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1983.
  • Bordman, Gerald. American Operetta. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
  • Clarke, Kevin
    Kevin Clarke (music historian)
    Kevin Clarke is an Irish-German music historian specializing in 1920s jazz operettas, and author of various books dealing with topics such as the jazz and revue operettas of the Weimar Republic, operetta in Nazi Germany, and homosexuality and operetta...

    . "Im Himmel spielt auch schon die Jazzband". Emmerich Kálmán und die transatlantische Operette 1928–1932. Hamburg: von Bockel Verlag, 2007 (examines the connection between Kálmán's jazz-operettas of the 1920s and Romberg's scores; in German)

External links