University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Kálmán: Die Bajadere

08/05/2018 1:00 pm
08/05/2018 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

There was another Hungarian composer of operetta besides Franz Lehar who was in circulation in Vienna during the Silver Age of Viennese operetta in the early twentieth century. That man was Imre or Emmerich Kálmán (1882-1953). Kálmán's Die Czardasfürstin premiered in Vienna in 1915 and immediately became a staple of the operetta repertoire. Kálmán had other stage successes, too, notably Gräfin Maritza (1924). I have broadcast recordings of both of those Kálmán favorites on bygone August Sundays. Also, I presented an obscure Kálmán operetta Die Herzogin von Chicago (1928) on Sunday, December 23, 2008.

Kálmán himself considered Die Bajadere (1921) to be the one of his works that came closest to actual opera. Die Bajadere or 'The Temple Dancer" employs some oriental tonal exoticisms, as well as popular American dance rhythms of the Roaring Twenties. The story involves an Indian prince, Parisian nightlife, wife swapping, and an operetta within an operetta.

Die Bajadere was produced for radio broadcast by West German Radio Cologne in February, 2014. Richard Bonynge conducted the West German Radio Broadcast House Orchestra and Cologne Radio Chorus, with eight vocal soloists, the speaking role of the wife of the theater director taken by Kálmán's daughter Yvonne, who although quite elderly, was still very much alive in 2014. CPO Records released Die Bajadere on two CDs in 2016. Frau Kálmán thought the WDR Cologne production was wonderful and did her father's music full justice. "With this release," she writes, "Die Bajadere will grant us many years of pleasure."