Emmerich Kalman Plays the music of Emmerich Kalman with Gitta Alpar, Soprano – Felix Knight, Tenor – May 5, 1940 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Although you might be hard pressed to label Emmerich Kalman a composer of serious Classical Music, he was quite well known and highly regarded in Light Opera circles throughout Europe – and the significance of this broadcast, his radio debut in the U.S. along with the American debut of Hungarian soprano Gitta Alpar give this an aura of historic importance. And since most likely more than a few of us have the odd Johann Strauss or Franz Lehar operetta in our record collections, adding the music of Emmerich Kalman doesn’t seem that big a stretch.
Emmerich Kálmán was a Hungarian composer of operettas and a prominent figure in the development of Viennese operetta in the 20th century. Among his most popular works are Die Csárdásfürstin (1915) and Gräfin Mariza (1924). Influences on his compositional style include Hungarian folk music (such as the csárdás), the Viennese style of precursors such as Johann Strauss II and Franz Lehár, and, in his later works, American jazz. As a result of the Anschluss, Kálmán and his family fled to Paris and then to the United States. He eventually returned to Europe in 1949 and died in Paris in 1953.
Gitta Alpár was born in Budapest, the daughter of a Jewish cantor. At an early age, she commenced the study of singing and pianoforte at the Academy of Budapest. Her first public appearance as a coloratura soprano under the name of Alpár was in 1923 at the Budapest State Opera House. The debut marked the beginning of a long career, promoted by eminent conductors such as Erich Kleiber, which led her singing at the great opera houses of Vienna, Berlin, and all over the world. An ensemble member of the Berlin State Opera from 1927 to 1930, she excelled in performances of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, as well as in Verdi’s Rigoletto and La traviata.
In 1931, Alpár married actor Gustav Fröhlich, with whom she had a child, Julika. Her first films were made in Germany. The marriage was dissolved in 1935 because Alpár was Jewish and the marriage was illegal in Nazi Germany. Alpár appeared on “Hitler’s hit list”, along with Charlie Chaplin and others, in the pages of the anti-semitic book, Juden sehen Dich an by Johann von Leers.
Alpár left Germany in 1933, first for Austria (where the film version of Ball im Savoy was made) and Hungary, then England and eventually the United States, where she continued her singing and film career. She died in Los Angeles, California, and was buried in the Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles.
William Felix Knight was an American tenor, actor, and vocal teacher, best known for his role as Tom-Tom in the 1934 Laurel and Hardy holiday musical film Babes in Toyland. He made radio recordings for Thesaurus Transcriptions with Nathaniel Shilkret and his Orchestra, and a year later, he recorded nine songs for Victor Records with Leo Reisman’s orchestra. He also started to perform on network radio again, first with the Schaefer All-Star Parade on NBC, which ran from 1938 to 1940, as well as the NBC Blue Network’s Music Appreciation Hour in 1938, and the RCA Magic Key [The Magic Key] during the 1938–39 season. Knight also had a weekly program on the radio station WEAF (later known as WNBC (AM)) every Thursday. In 1938, he was one of the finalists on NBC’s Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air, losing to John Carter by a single vote. In 1939, he made his concert recital debut at The Town Hall, singing selections from Johannes Brahms, Francesco Cavalli, Alessandro Stradella, and Richard Strauss. Knight made his Broadway debut in October 1940 as the featured singer in It Happens on Ice, and in 1942, he sang the role of Camile de Jolidon in Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow at Carnegie Hall. In his final Broadway role, he played Almaviva in Once Over Lightly in 1942 with Igor Gorin and Grace Panvini; the production was based on Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.
In 1940, Knight again recorded for Victor Records, and continued to be heard on radio in musical programs such as The Ford Sunday Evening Hour, and Music Hall of the Air (Radio City Music Hall), and the game program So You Think You Know Music.
Enjoy. Discs are a little creaky in spots – mold will do that.