Franz Lehár (30 April 1870 – 24 October 1948), known in Hungarian as Lehár Ferenc, was an Austrian composer of Hungarian descent, mainly known for his operettas.
Lehár was born in the northern part of Komárom
(it is now Komárno
) as the eldest son of a bandmaster
in the Infantry Regiment No. 50 of the Austro-Hungarian Army
. While his younger brother Anton
entered cadet school in Vienna to become a professional officer, Franz studied violin
at the Prague Conservatory
but was advised by Antonín Dvořák
to focus on composing music. After graduation in 1899 he joined his father's band in Vienna
, as assistant bandmaster. In 1902 he became conductor at the historic Vienna Theater an der Wien
, where his first opera Wiener Frauen
was performed in November of that year.
He is most famous for his operettas - the most successful of which is The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe), but he also wrote sonatas, symphonic poems, marches, and a number of waltzes, (the most popular being Gold und Silber, composed for Princess Metternich's "Gold and Silver" Ball, January 1902) some of which were drawn from his famous operettas. Individual songs from some of the operettas have become standards, notably "Vilja" from The Merry Widow and "You Are My Heart's Delight" ("Dein ist mein ganzes Herz") from The Land of Smiles.
Lehár was also associated with the operatic tenor Richard Tauber, who sang in many of his operettas, beginning with Frasquita (1922), in which Lehár once again found a suitable post-war style. Between 1925 and 1934 he wrote six operettas specifically for Tauber's voice.
By 1935 he decided to form his own publishing house, Glocken-Verlag (“Publishing House of the Bells”), to maximize his personal control over performance rights to his works.
He died in 1948 in Bad Ischl, near Salzburg where he was also buried. His younger brother Anton became the administrator of his estate, promoting the popularity of Franz Lehár's music.
- He was elected an honorary citizen of Sopron in 1940.
- Despite his work being in contrast with the erudition of Wagner, associated with the Nazis, Lehár's work was enjoyed by Hitler, who awarded him the Goethe Medal. Lehár himself had a Jewish wife and his friend and sometime-librettist Fritz Löhner was killed at Auschwitz-III.
- A street in Leidsche Rijn, Utrecht, The Netherlands was named after him.
- Rodrigo, 1893, unperformed
- Kukuška, 27 November 1896, Leipzig
- Wiener Frauen, 21 November 1902, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
- Der Rastelbinder, 20 December 1902, Carltheater, Vienna
- Der Göttergatte, 20 January 1904, Carltheater. Vienna
- Die Juxheirat, 21 December 1904, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
- The Merry Widow, 30 December 1905, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
- Peter und Paul schlafen ins Schlaraffenland, 1 December 1906, Vienna
- Mitislaw der Moderne, 5 January 1907, Vienna
- Der Mann mit den drei Frauen, 21 January 1908, Vienna
- Das Fürstenkind, 7 October 1909, Johann Strauß Theater, Vienna
- Der Graf von Luxemburg, 12 November 1909, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
- Zigeunerliebe, 8 January 1910, Carltheater, Vienna
- Eva, 24 November 1911, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
- Rosenstock und Edelweiss, 1 December 1912, Vienna
- Endlich allein, 30 January 1914, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
- Der Sterngucker, 14 January 1916, Vienna
- A pacsirta, 1 January 1918, Royal Opera Budapest
- Die blaue Mazur, 28 May 1920, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
- Frühling, 20 January 1922, Vienna
- Frasquita, 12 May 1922, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
- Die gelbe Jacke, 9 February 1923, Vienna
- Cloclo, 8 March 1924, Vienna
- Paganini, 30 October 1925, Johann Strauß Theater Vienna
- Der Zarewitsch, 26 February 1926, Deutsches Künstlertheater Berlin
- Friederike, 4 October 1928, Metropol Theater Berlin
- The Land of Smiles, 10 October 1929, Metropol Theater Berlin
- Schön ist die Welt, 3 December 1930, Metropol Theater Berlin
- Giuditta, 20 January 1934, Vienna State Opera
A complete list of his musical works may be found here
In 1947, Lehár conducted the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
in a series of 78-rpm recordings for English Decca
(released in the U.S. by London Records) of overtures and waltzes from his operettas. The recordings had remarkable sound for their time because they were made using Decca's "full frequency range recording" process, one of the first commercial high fidelity techniques. These recordings were later issued on LP and CD. A compilation of his recordings has been released by Naxos Records
- Ganzl, Kurt. The Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre (3 Volumes). New York: Schirmer Books, 2001.
- Grun, Bernard. Gold and Silver: The Life and Times of Franz Lehár. New York: David McKay Co., 1970.
- Tauber, Richard. Operetta: A Theatrical History. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1983
- Bordman, Gerald. American Operetta. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
- Franz Lehar