Music by Franz Von Suppe English Lyrics and dialog by Thomas Petiet
A Show to Match Its Overture
Although the Light Cavalry overture is world famous, the show from which it came has languished in obscurity. One of the first Viennese operettas, the show has historical significance in that it was the first operetta to incorporate Hungarian themes. But more than that, it has a sophisticated and tuneful musical score that has been unjustly neglected. Although it has been infrequently revived in Europe, it has, to our knowledge, never been performed in North America, and certainly not in English. COG’s 2013 production produced the first complete recording ever made of this show, which has been funded in part by a successful crowd funding campaign.
Finding materials for the production in involved a good bit of sleuthing, and a bit of good luck. No score of the work could be found in the collections of American libraries, until by chance a French language printing was found in California, under the title “Cavalerie Legere.” Although an orchestral manuscript was located in Wurttemburg, Germany, orchestra parts were not forthcoming. This is a common problem for shows that have fallen out of the repertory, and often the only solution is to re-orchestrate. Luck, and some good connections came into play for the Guild this time, however, when a colleague on the west coast contacted a collector in Vienna, who happened to have obtained parts for the original show to add to his collection, and was overjoyed to provide a copy of them for this production so that the show could be performed.
All that could be found of the dialog was a synopsis of the story online, so Mr. Petiet, Managing Director of the Guild, was called upon to recreate the dialog and lyrics in English. It is likely that the original story was not strong enough to keep the show on the boards, so this version has been strengthened considerably to make the definitive performing version.
It is the story of Wilma, a beautiful young girl found wandering as a child, who has been treated as a cleaning wench by the Mayor and his wife, and kept from her lover, Hermann. When a troop of Hussars comes to town, it turns out that she is the lost daughter of the Colonel, who makes it his business to see to it that some comeuppance is delivered, in a very amusing way.
The score features some songs and ensembles that are true discoveries. Wilma’s haunting Gypsy song is actually the center section of the overture and is beautifully rendered by Natalie Emptage, making her third appearance in a lead role for COG. Johnathan Riesen, a winner in last year’s Haugh Vocal Competition, is Hermann, whose second act lament is a bravura aria for tenor. The plot culminates in an astonishing eleven-voice ensemble that is unique in operetta. Comic Opera Guild veterans Chris Grapentine (bass) and David Troiano (tenor) also return as lusty