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Rose Valley Chorus & Orchestra

WHO WAS VICTOR HERBERT?

Cast List    Synopsis    Production History

By Bruce Bogdanoff and Arnie Finkel


During his lifetime, Victor Herbert, was considered to be an icon in the annals of American music. He was known as the most popular creator of light music for the stage at the turn of the 20th century and his name was familiar to anyone who might have been involved with the theater. Born in Dublin in 1859, but educated in London, Stuttgart, and finally Vienna, Herbert was trained as a cellist and his first successful compositions were large-scale works for that instrument. Shortly after his marriage to the soprano Theresa Forster in 1882, Victor emigrated to the United States, where both were employed by the Metropolitan Opera; Theresa sang the title role in the American premiere of "Aida" in German, and her husband was the orchestra's principal cellist. Although Herbert continued to compose and perform classical works, especially for the cello, he became increasingly drawn to the genre of "light orchestral music," and in 1894 composed the first of his more than 40 operettas, "Prince Ananius." He subsequently became conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for 6 years, and was one of the founders of The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). As director of ASCAP he was the person primarily responsible for convincing the Supreme Court in 1917 to grant the right for composers to collect fees for performances of their works. In addition to his 40+ operettas, Herbert composed an opera, more than 20 chamber works, 30 solo piano pieces, 80 songs, several concert works, and many choral compositions. It is believed that his score for the silent movie "The Fall of a Nation" was the first ever written as an original full-through score for a feature film.

So what happened? Why is it that except for "Babes In Toyland," composed in 1903 and played (at least, its theme song) yearly during the Christmas season, the once immensely popular operettas of Victor Herbert are all but forgotten? One reason may be that musical tastes changed. But it's hard to keep a good musical score down forever, and Herbert's are more than just "good." The plots and librettos, on the other hand, are rather outdated and may be considered "corny" by today's audiences. Hence the birth of the Victor Herbert Renaissance Project, started in 1994 by Alyce Mott, a prominent New York City playwright and stage director, and Maestro Dino Anagnost, conductor and artistic director of The Little Orchestra Society in New York. Ms. Mott, who was asked to write a new version of "Babes in Toyland," relates that "it was kind of crazy; Victor Herbert? I never really even heard of him. But after I heard the music, I was hooked." Following a somewhat difficult search, original Victor Herbert scripts were discovered in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. New and updated versions were then authored by Quade Winter of New Jersey and orchestral revisions have been prepared by William V. (Pete) Dorwart of Bala Cynwyd PA. According to Ms. Mott, "It's all about cleaning up the books. We never touch the music-it's so wonderful. To date there have been performances of "Babes in Toyland," "The Red Mill," "The Fortune Teller," "Cyrano de Bergerac," and "State Fair," with more to follow, and commercial recordings performed by the Ohio Light Opera Company have helped to bring these delightful operettas back to the public domain.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Victor Herbert's most successful operetta, "The Red Mill." The Rose Valley Chorus and Orchestra, which will celebrate its own centennial in 2007, is excited to be producing this charming show in the 2001 version with an updated script by Quade Winter originally written for the Ohio Light Opera under the guidance of the Victor Herbert Renaissance Project. "The Red Mill" opened on Broadway on September 24, 1906, and ran for 274 performances, the longest run of any Herbert show. The 1945 revival starring Eddie Foy Jr. ran for 531 performances. The music is typical Victor Herbert, and the lyrics by Henry Blossom are some of the finest in the Herbert catalogue. "Everyday Is Ladies Day With Me", "Because You're You", "In Old New York", "The Isle of our Dreams", and "Moonbeams" are highlights from the rich score, as Herbert was able to successfully blend operetta with the popular tunes of the early 1900's. The plot follows the antics of two very down and out Americans "doing Europe," and their involvement in the romantic entanglements of two Dutch couples. The producer of the 1906 production, Charles Dillingham, made theatrical history by placing in front of the Knickerbocker Theater, where the show was playing, a revolving red windmill powered and lit by electricity; it was Broadway's first moving illuminated sign.

Discover the brilliance and charm of a Victor Herbert score, and be a part of this historic 100th anniversary production. In the words of Ms. Mott "No one could write a melody better than Herbert. I call this music for the soul. You'll be humming Herbert for days." Help us to make certain that more and more people interested in music and the theater will never again have to ask the question: "Who was Victor Herbert?" Thank you, Alyce Mott and Maestro Dino Anagnost for enriching our lives through the Victor Herbert Renaissance Project.

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