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Popular Musical Theatre, Cultural Transfer, Modernities: London/Berlin, 1890-1930

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Abstract

Between the years 1890 to 1930 a large number of popular musical theatre shows—musical comedies and operettas—were exchanged between London and Berlin. This essay represents the first attempt by scholars to examine this cultural practice. It outlines the implications of cultural transfer and exchange in terms of theatre history generally and the more detailed mechanics of show "translation." Using the figure of adaptation to explore cultural relations between two important metropolitan sites, the essay also examines the wider historical implications of this vibrant exchange culture, which was contemporary with a period when Anglo-German relations were generally characterized by marked hostility.
Theatre Journal 65 (2013) 1–18 © 2013 by The Johns Hopkins University Press
Popular Musical Theatre, Cultural Transfer,
Modernities: London/Berlin, 1890–1930
Len Platt and Tobias Becker
Musical theatre was one of the most important popular cultures of the late-nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries. Representing a key stage in the modernization of the
theatre, it had a major impact on theatre aesthetics: it made substantial claims for
itself as a characteristically modern cultural form, in the case of the revue producing
challenging alternatives to the conservative progressivism of the book musical; it also
engaged in complex ways with ideas about the modern world, registering and shaping
contemporary attitudes to class, gender, and national identities and articulating with
mainstream political issues. Musical theatre was entertainment, but, far from being an
innocent diversion, it was also a key constituent of everyday culture.
In the United States, which was traditionally more accepting of popular culture
than Europe, the musical has a high cultural status that often appears closely con-
nected to the formation of national identities. More than just a simple celebration, it
has embodied America’s mastery over modernity in particularly amiable ways—as
entertainment. It is hardly surprising that this potent combination has rendered the
musical the subject of serious research in the American academy. Traditional modes of
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not just to construct a canon within music theatre history, but also to position musical
theatre alongside other celebrated and prestigious cultural forms.
Outside the United States, however, popular musical theatre has remained on the
margins of the academy. Here, it has enjoyed some impact in relation to cultural his-
tory and debates that continue to take place around ideas of theatre as agency and the
politics of performance, especially where these invoke working-class and otherwise
H[RWLFL]HGRU´RXWVLGHUO\µFXOWXUHV6LQFHWKHVDQG·VÀJXUHVOLNH-DFN\%UDWWRQ
Dagmar Kift, Thomas Postlewait, Maria Shevtsova, and Erika Fischer-Lichte have en-
gaged in a wide-ranging intervention that elevates the dynamism of performance over
Len Platt is a professor of modern literatures at Goldsmiths University of London. His research interests
include moder n European literature, James Joyce, and popular musical theatre, and his publications
include Aristocracies of Fiction (2003); Musical Comedy on the West End Stage, 1890–1939
(2004); Joyce, Race and Finnegans Wake (2006); Modernism and Race (2010); and James Joyce:
Texts and Contexts (2011).
Tobias Becker is a research assistant in modern European history at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, Freie
Universität Berlin and a postdoctoral researcher in the DFG/AHRC project “West End and Friedrichstraße:
Popular Musical Theatre in London and Berlin, 1890–1939.” His research interests include urban,
cultural, and theatre histor y. He has coedited a book on European entertainment culture around 1900
titled Die Stadt der tausend Freuden. Vergnügungskultur um 1900 (2011).
2 / /HQ3ODWWDQG 7RELDV%HFNHU
conservative notions of “static” theatre. Moving away from the primacy of the canoni-
cal text, their work has developed our understanding of the politics of performance.
Genres like music hall and cabaret have taken on some importance against this
background—the former articulated as a working-class culture, and the latter, follow-
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mindlessness of popular variety shows and the incomprehensible esotericism of the
avant-garde.”1 Such forms of musical theatre have often been seen as illustrations of
an intervention theorized in the 1970s and ’80s as the “carnivalesque,” or now, more
soberly, as what some historians have been calling “an alternative public sphere.” As
distinct from the more familiar formations described by Jürgen Habermas—the “ratio-
nal discourse” of middle-class men in “voluntary associations”—popular theatre here
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century”2 that becomes an essential part of the decentred politics of the conservative
modern.
The genres most associated with the commercialization and industrialization of
music theatre at the end of the long turn of century (1880–1930) have until recently
remained largely outside this zone of interest, for reasons that must have once seemed
convincing enough. The idea of theatre as agency works best in the contexts of theatres
self-consciously designed in terms of radical social and political engagement, as many
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operated for the most part in a very different domain. Although these theatres have
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and German capitals were, in fact, much more ordinary—middle-class men and women
and, seasonally, their children enjoying institutionalized forms of public performance.
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as commercial entertainment. Success was measured not least according to the extent
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on the delights of familiarity and recognition, as well as on escapism, fantasy, and
spectacle. This was a culture seemingly removed from the challenges of an art theatre
that appealed mostly to intellectuals and was often outspokenly anti-popular, although
in reality there were more crossovers in this respect than is usually acknowledged.
Sometimes teasingly associated with the dangerous glamour of the demimonde, musical
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developed, for example, by Erika Rappaport, Len Platt, Marline Otte, and Derek Scott.
Peter Jelavich’s early work in Berlin Cabaret (1993), a study that includes substantial
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Kriegstheater: Großstadt, Front und Massenkultu (2005), for instance, follows Jelavich in
1 Peter Jelavich, Berlin Cabaret (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 26.
2 Marline Otte, Jewish Identities in German Popular Entertainment, 1890–1933 (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2006), 13.
POPULAR MUSICAL THEATRE, CULTURAL TRANSFER, MODERNITIES / 3
this respect, as does Otte’s work on circus, jargon theatre, and, to some extent, revue.
Almost all of this work focuses on the pre-1914 period and has been deeply shaped
by the attempt to understand musical theatre in terms of the material making of the
modern city and the construction of conservative and popular modernisms.
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the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Deutche Forschungsgemeinschaft to
examine these popular forms of musical theatre in relation to cultural transfer between
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ing beyond the prewar period to the 1920s and ’30s.3 This Anglo-German dimension,
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%HUOLQ responds to a number of important issues both in relation to theatre history
and a more wide-ranging culturalism. In terms of the former, the enduring operettas
of Jacques Offenbach and Johann Strauss have led popular musical theatre in Europe
to be mainly associated with the cities of Paris and Vienna. Particularly focused in
such early texts as Siegfried Kracauer’s magisterial Offenbach and the Paris of His Time
WKH RSHUHWWDVRIERWK FRPSRVHUVDQGWKHLU LQÁXHQFHRQWKH PXVLFDOWKHDWUHRI
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developed their own brands of musical theatre from the 1880s in all the most popular
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reputation as “one of the most vibrant entertainment centres in turn-of-the-century
Europe.”4%RWKZHUHDOVRVLWHVZKHUHD UDSLGO\DFFHOHUDWLQJYHUVLRQRIPRGHUQLW\ZDV
being experienced in all its contradictions. Cosmopolitanism, dazzling new inven-
tions, the commercialization of fashion, and the emerging leisure and entertainment
industries all developed more or less simultaneously in these cities around 1900 in a
process that took place not in isolation, but in growing relatedness and interconnec-
tion. As well as deepening our knowledge of the theatre history of this period, then,
a study from the perspective of cultural transfer and exchange would also add to our
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important new light not only on the highly contested concept of modernism, but also
on European cultural relations.
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viewed in terms of an essential and almost unbridgeable Anglo-German antagonism.
Only recently have scholars begun to reconsider this relationship, placing the undeni-
ably deteriorating public political context against a more everyday reality, where things
were more ambiguous and nuanced. As Dominik Geppert and Robert Gerwarth point
out in their introduction to a 2008 collection of transcultural essays titled Wilhelmine
Germany and Edwardian Britain´LQWHQVHIHHOLQJVRIFXOWXUDOSUR[LPLW\µEHWZHHQ%ULWDLQ
and Germany seemed to go hand in hand with “widespread antagonism,” certainly
at the broader cultural level.5 To put it rather differently, musical theatre in London
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3 Frank E. Washburn Freund, “The Theatrical Year in Germany,” in The Stage Yearbook, 1914 (London,
1914), 81–96.
4 Otte, Jewish Identities, 4.
5 Dominik Geppert and Robert Gerwarth, eds., Wilhelmine Germany and Edwardian Britain: Essays on
&XOWXUDO$IÀQLW\ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 2.
4 / /HQ3ODWWDQG 7RELDV%HFNHU
termed a “contact zone,”6 predicated, in part, on the business cultures and structures
that facilitated the transfer industry, but also, especially in the earlier part of the period,
on an aspirational sense of metropolitan-style culture—except that here, suggestively,
the dynamic was established not across an advancing center and retreating periphery,
as in the familiar anthropological model, but instead across centers competing for
authority in, if not ascendancy over, the modern.
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in part because it reintroduces two neglected sites into the transnational network of
popular theatre, but also because it seems highly likely to contribute to our under-
standing of how this popular culture operated in relation to the modern world. This
present essay, produced half-way through a research project, illustrates our methods
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show Schwindelmeier & Co., highlights the mechanics of textual adaptation, showing
how, again in the early years, these shows signed up to an upbeat and accommodat-
ing vision of modernity while at the same time responding to more local dimensions.
The following sections work differently to construct a largely unexplored narrative of
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gage with and accommodate modernity was displaced by a marked retreat from the
modern, indicated not least by the emphatic popularity of “historical” musicals. At the
same time, the direction of travel between these sites became almost exclusively one
way and adaptation styles shifted substantially, as did the musical theatre forms now
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far beyond the traditional domains of musical theatre history to engage with wider
histories, which is why the later sections of this essay have a particular focus on how
we might read the history of transfer during this period.
Cosmopolite Nation: The Arcadians and Schwindelmeier & Co.
The earlier part of this period, 1890–1914, was initially characterized by the export of
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circuit that featured such places as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Sydney, Melbourne,
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hit shows like A Gaiety Girl (1893), The Geisha (1896), A Greek Slave (1898), A Runaway
Girl (1898), San Toy (1899), A Chinese Honeymoon (1899), and The Silver Slipper (1901).
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keusche Susanne (1911), Autoliebchen (1912), and Die Kino-Königin (1913). All of these
Gilbert shows played in the West End (as, respectively, Joy Ride Lady, The Girl in the
Taxi, and The Cinema Star) and elsewhere to considerable acclaim. The Girl in the Taxi,
for example, was received in London on the brink of World War I as a particularly
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to suit the taste of the ‘big’ city public, and is also cheaper to put on because only a
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6 See Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992).
7 Washburn Freund, “The Theatrical Year in Germany.”
POPULAR MUSICAL THEATRE, CULTURAL TRANSFER, MODERNITIES / 5
The Arcadians (1909), one of the most successful musicals of the early twentieth cen-
tury, illustrates what was invested in the processes of translating and adapting these
shows. With lyrics by Arthur Wimperis and music composed by Lionel Monckton
and Howard Talbot, The Arcadians was produced at the Shaftesbury Theatre by Robert
Courtneidge, premiering on 28 April 1909. The libretto was written by Mark Ambient
and Alexander Thompson—the former, like Courtneidge, a socialist, although it is
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an especially large cage, called the “Reichstag,” in which their representatives quarrel
all day long. In it, politicians are grouped by colors, the most dangerous group being
the “reds.”8 Indeed, it was an indication of the largely conservative preferences of
Freund’s audience that almost every revue and operetta staged at the Metropol-Theater
contained an allusion mocking or criticizing the Social Democratic Party of Germany
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Left, like Ramsey McDonald and Keir Hardie, did appear on the London stage, but
not with any regularity until a little later. Such references were especially stimulated
by the outbreak of war and a perceived lack of patriotism on the part of the Left.
The Arcadians enacted the story of James Smith, a London restaurateur with a passion
for aeroplanes. He crash-lands in faraway Arcadia, a fairyland completely removed
from civilization and inhabited by prelapsarian innocents. Scarcely arrived, Smith tries
to seduce one of them, named Sombra, by lying. The Arcadians are so outraged that
they throw him into the “well of truth,” from which Smith emerges apparently puri-
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and her sister Chrysea decide to take Smith back to London on a mission: “To all and
each, / Where sin is rife, / We go to teach / The simple life.”9 Transported to London
by Father Time, they arrive in a sudden burst of rain and thunder at Askwood Races
on Cup Day, where the second act takes place. Smith/Simplicitas here encounters his
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hearing about Arcadia, she also persuades him to cooperate in the venture of opening
an Arcadian-styled restaurant. Sombra convinces Simplicitas (who now, like all Arca-
dians, is able to speak to animals) to replace a jockey who has been incapacitated by
a horse bite, not least to assist the romantic lead Jack Meadows, who stands to lose
£5,000 if a new rider cannot be found. The horse wins the cup easily, with Simplicitas
fast asleep on its back. The third act is set in Smith’s Arcadian-themed restaurant,
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here by vegetarian food—has become the latest consumerist fad, and all well-to-do
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Instead of actually promoting rural innocence, however, Simplicitas makes use of his
newly regained youth to enjoy city pleasures, which arouses Mrs. Smith’s suspicions.
Cornered by his wife, Simplicitas tells a lie and falls into the ornamental well in the
8 Julius Freund, Schwindelmeier & Co., act 1, scene 3 (n.p.). The only surviving manuscript is in the
7KHDWHUKLVWRULVFKH6DPPOXQJ GHU)UHLH8QLYHUVLWlW %HUOLQ1DFKODVV-XOLXV )UHXQGZ$OO
UHIHUHQFHVWRWKH%HUOLQ WH[WDUHIURPWKLVYHUVLRQ
9 Mark Ambient and Alexander M. Thompson, The ArcadiansDFWQS%ULWLVK/LEUDU\PDQXVFULSW
Lord Chamberlain’s Plays, 1909.
6 / /HQ3ODWWDQG 7RELDV%HFNHU
restaurant, reemerging as his old self. Now bald and bewhiskered, he returns to his
true age—in more senses than one. Sombra and Chrysea realize that their mission to
convert the modern world cannot succeed and consequently leave for Arcadia, although
not without the latter confessing that, for all its wickedness, she has completely fallen
for the delights of modern London.
The Arcadians ran for three years and 809 performances in the West End, becoming
the quintessential Edwardian musical play. Unsurprisingly, managers abroad soon
became interested. The Arcadians was produced at the Liberty Theatre in New York
in 1910 with an entirely new cast, where it was likened to “a morning out of doors
LQD YHU\ SOHDVDQWVXQVKLQ\ ODQGSHRSOHG E\JUDFHIXO ÀJXUHVµ10 In March 1910, the
show came to the Theatre Royal in Melbourne; in February 1911, to the Etablissement
Ronacher in Vienna, as Die ArkadierDQGÀQDOO\LQ$SULOWRWKH0HWURSRO7KHDWHU
LQ%HUOLQ ZKHUHLWZDV DGDSWHGE\ )UHXQGDV Schwindelmeier & Co., with additional
music by Rudolf Nelson.
It is not clear whether the play was translated into German before Freund’s adapta-
tion; since no other name appears on the script or program, the usual assumption has
been that this was the case, although more typically, adaptations were collaborative.
7KHÀUVWPXVLFDOFRPHG\WREHWUDQVODWHGLQWR*HUPDQIRUH[DPSOHThe Geisha (1897),
was initially translated by Curt Roehr, who was something of a linguistic genius,
VWXG\LQJHLJKWODQJXDJHVLQFOXGLQJ&KLQHVHDIWHUÀQLVKLQJJUDPPDUVFKRRO+HWKHQ
lived for several years in England where he worked as a journalist, theatre critic, and
DXWKRUUHWXUQLQJWR%HUOLQ LQ DQGIRXQGLQJ DSXEOLVKLQJ KRXVHIRU PXVLF7KH
ÀUVWLWHP KHSXEOLVKHG ZDVKLV WUDQVODWLRQRI The Geisha,11 thus making it quite pos-
VLEOHWKDW5RHKU VWDUWHGWKH PXVLFDOFRPHG\IDVKLRQ LQ%HUOLQ SHUKDSVKDYLQJ VHHQ
The Geisha in London. This translation, however, did not produce a viable play-text.
As with A Greek Slave—the West End play that followed The GeishaWR%HUOLQ³DOLWHUDO
*HUPDQ YHUVLRQ ZDV PDGH ÀUVW 7KH WH[W ZDV WKHQ KDQGHG RYHU WR DQ H[SHULHQFHG
playwright like Freund, who was the author of many revues and operettas staged at
the Metropol-Theater.
Typically, “translations” at this time were often radical, involving interpolations
of songs, complete script rewrites, the dropping of whole acts, and so on. The trans-
formation of The ArcadiansLQWRD%HUOLQVKRZ ZDVUDWKHUOHVVGLVUXSWLYH7KH(QJOLVK
version, unusually, was in three acts rather than the standard two and remained so
IRUWKH%HUOLQVWDJH0XFKRIWKHJHQHUDOSORWDOVRUHPDLQHGWKHVDPH$WPDQ\SRLQWV
in the play, dialogue transferred over without too much interference. The original, for
example, begins with Sombra telling her fellow Arcadians about a strange land named
“England” and an even stranger city named “London,” where people crowd together
in vast numbers and live in cages of brick and stone. Freund retained this scene, the
RQO\GLIIHUHQFHEHLQJWKHUHQDPLQJRI6RPEUDDV6HUHQDDQGWKHVLJQLÀFDQWWUDQVSRVL-
WLRQRI%HUOLQIRU/RQGRQ12 The chorus in act 1, where the Arcadians express their fear
about the descent of Smith/Meier on his aeroplane, is almost identical in both versions:
10 “‘The Arcadians’ Charm at Liberty,” New York Times, 18 January 1910 (n.p.).
11 Cf. Reichshandbuch der deutschen Gesellschaft: das Handbuch der Persönlichkeiten in Wort und Bild, vol.
2: L–Z%HUOLQ 'HXWVFKHU:LUWVFKDIWVYHUODJ
12 Ambient and Thompson, The Arcadians, act 1 (n.p.).
POPULAR MUSICAL THEATRE, CULTURAL TRANSFER, MODERNITIES / 7
Look, what hovers there above us, Seht hoch über Wald und Hügel,
Hanging on gigantic wing! Kommt ein Untier auf uns her,
Oh, eternal gods who love us, Mächtig steuern seine Flügel
Save us from that awful thing! Durch der Wolken brandend Meer!
Hark, it’s coming, humming, thrumming. Seht nur wie es sausend brausend
:KHHOLQJUHHOLQJLQLWVÁLJKW  3IHLOVFKQHOOGXUFKGHQ$HWKHUVFKLHVVW
Looping, drooping, swooping, whooping, Wie es fauchend, Unheil hauchend,
Like a harpy of the night! Immer eng’re Kreise schließt!
See, upon its back is riding Schauder jagt uns durchs Gebein!
Something in no mortal shape, Ihr Götter mögt uns gnädig sein!
Mopping, mowing, creeping, leaping, Praseln, rasseln—ratternd, knatternd
Frisking like a frenzied ape! Will’s uns ins Verderben zieh’n!
It’s upon us! It’s upon us! Ah!13  /DWXQVÁLHK·Q ODWXQVÁLHK·Q14
In both versions, the metaphor of the airplane as modernity was maintained, as were
the central thematic dynamics of the show. The general idea of playing off big-city
fashion and morality against an initially attractive idyll remained fundamental to both,
as did the ambiguities around whether the upsurge of the fashionable, modern me-
tropolis needed to be checked by a return to rural innocence. Like some of the novelistic
versions of Arcadia published around the same time—H. C. Minchin’s The Arcadians
(1899), for example, and J. S. Fletcher’s The Arcadians: A Whimsicality (1903)—the clas-
sic musical theatre version, although not indifferent to the immoralities and perceived
VXSHUÀFLDOLWLHVRI XUEDQ FRQWHPSRUDQHLW\WRRN DQ XSEHDWUHVSRQVH WRZKDW LQPRUH
LQWHOOHFWXDOFLUFOHVZDVRQHRIWKHGHÀQLQJLVVXHVRIÀQGHVLqFOH Europe: the perceived
threat of decadence and degeneration. This show laughed at the fantasy of a pure and
simple life; at the same time, it was a celebration of consumerism and devoted a great
deal of energy towards reproducing contemporary modernity as exciting spectacle.15
For all the talk of fog and homes like cages, the London of The Arcadians was rep-
resented not by the dirt and squalor of the East End, but by streets representing the
IDVKLRQDEOHUHWDLO ZRUOG5HJHQW 6WUHHW2[IRUG6WUHHW DQG%RQG 6WUHHWDOO VKRSSLQJ
areas since the eighteenth century. During the nineteenth century, established next door
to exclusive tailors and dressmakers, department stores like Selfridges had opened
their doors to a more diverse clientele.16 Thus when Smith is asked about the strange
place where he comes from, it is precisely the Arcadians’ ignorance of these fashion-
able districts, and of the concept of shopping, that marks the distance between the
modern world and Arcadia:
SMITH<HV\RX·YHKHDUGRI%RQG6WUHHW"3LFFDGLOO\"All look blank) Then you’ve never heard
RI6PLWK  &RWKH OHYLDWKDQFDWHUHUV" 1R"2[IRUG 6WUHHW"5HJHQW 6WUHHW"$
ZRPDQDQGQHYHUKHDUGRI5HJHQW6WUHHW:K\\RXGRQ·WNQRZZKDWVKRSVDUH"
SOMBRA1RZKDW DUHVKRSV"
SMITH6KRSV":HOOHUVKRSVDUH³HU³:HOOHU³VKRSV:KHUHWKH\6HOIULGJHV³VHOOWKLQJV17
7UDQVSRVLQJWKLV XUEDQ FHQWHU DV %HUOLQ ZDV QRW VLPSO\ D QDWXUDO E\SURGXFW RI
translating the show—indeed, a purist translation would have retained the London
13 Ibid.
14 Freund, Schwindelmeier & Co., act 1, scene 3 (n.p.).
15 See Len Platt, Musical Comedy on the West End Stage, 1890–1939%DVLQJVWRNH 8.3DOJUDYH0DF-
millan), 49–54.
16 See Erika Diane Rappaport, Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London’s West End (Princ-
eton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 16–40.
17 Ambient and Thompson, The Arcadians, act 1 (n.p.).
8 / /HQ3ODWWDQG 7RELDV%HFNHU
VHWWLQJ³EXWUDWKHUDSUHFLVHJHRJUDSKLFUHPDSSLQJWKDWHQWLUHO\FKDUDFWHUL]HGWKH%HUOLQ
show, rendering it fully as adaptation. In Schwindelmeier & Co., Regent Street became
8QWHUGHQ/LQGHQ %HUOLQ·VIDVKLRQDEOHERXOHYDUG3LFFDGLOO\ EHFDPH)ULHGULFKVWUDH
%HUOLQ·VWKHDWUHGLVWULFWDQG2[IRUG6WUHHWEHFDPHWKH7DXHQW]LHQVWUDHWRWKHZHVWRI
the city and the Tiergarten—it was here, along Tauentzienstraße and Kurfürstendamm,
that soon after 1900 a new shopping district emerged with the opening of the Kaufhaus
des Westens (popularly known as KdW) in 1907. References to locations like Mayfair
and Rotten Row, amusements like Cup Day at Ascot, and to shops, fashion design-
ers, and so on gave Freund the opportunity for a radical reinscription that positioned
%HUOLQDVRSSRVHGWR/RQGRQDWWKHYHU\FHQWHURIWKHPRGHUQZRUOG,QWKLVZD\WKH
%ULWLVKFDSLWDOFLW\IDUIURPEHLQJD%HUOLQHTXLYDOHQWZDVGLVSODFHGE\DQDOWHUQDWLYH
metropolis that possessed all the dimensions of its prototype—and perhaps a bit extra.
Although The Arcadians did not feature a department store scene, its second act, with
its racecourse setting, offered ample opportunity for a celebration of consumerism.
“Askwood” stood in for the Ascot and Goodwood racecourses, just as “Garrods,” the
setting for another Edwardian blockbuster, Our Miss Gibbs, did for Harrods. The two
sites were distinct in some ways though in other ways complemented each other. Ac-
cording to Rappaport, Gordon Selfridges “designed and publicized the department store
. . . as a blend of elite and mass culture, mirroring the world of Ascot and the amuse-
ment park.”18 Just as Our Miss Gibbs featured a mother and a daughter buying clothes
for Ascot, so too did The Arcadians use the racecourse setting for a dazzling display of
IDVKLRQDELOLW\%RWKVKRZVUHJLVWHUHGWKHSDUDOOHOLVPLQ DQRSHQLQJQXPEHUIHDWXULQJ
the “well-dressed crowd of race-goers,” which functioned as a hymn to consumerism:
LADIES: We bow at the altar of fashion,
We’re vowed to the vogue of the hour,
The Rite of the Robe is our passion,
The Might of the Mode is our pow’r!
Leave dowdies their homespun and “Harris,”
Your Venus of breeding and birth
Defers to the judgment of Paris,
A mixture of beauty and Worth!19
Schwindelmeier & Co., however, probed more suggestively into the extent that con-
sumerism penetrated the everyday. It shared the essential joie de vie of its prototype,
but was also more interrogative in its handling of the impact of consumerist culture.
In a highly sexualized scene for which there was no real equivalent in the original,
Meier, in his Arcadian avatar, encounters his daughter, Trude, on the racecourse. To
0HLHU·V GLVFRPIRUW7UXGHEHJLQVWRÁLUWZLWK KLPLQ RUGHUWR DURXVHWKHMHDORXV\ RI
KHUÀDQFp1RWUHDOL]LQJWKDWVKHLVDFWXDOO\DGGUHVVLQJKHURZQIDWKHU7UXGHSURYLGHV
the strange Arcadian with a frank account of the more intimate social life of a “real
JLUOIURP %HUOLQ:HVWµ³WKHGLVWULFW LQZKLFK %HUOLQ·VXSSHU PLGGOHDQG XSSHUFODVV
lived. In an exchange that would certainly have been censored by the Lord Chamber-
ODLQ·V2IÀFHLQ /RQGRQ7UXGHWHOOVKHUVKRFNHG IDWKHUWKDWDJLUO ´GRHVQ·WJHWDFKLOG
from a kiss” and expresses her willingness to gamble everything on the unlikelihood
18 Rappaport, Shopping for Pleasure, 166.
19 Ambient and Thompson, The Arcadians, act 2 (n.p.). “Worth” alludes to Charles Frederick Worth,
a fashion designer who catered mainly for the haute bourgeoisie RI(XURSH6HH &KULVWRSKHU%UHZDUG
and Caroline Evans, eds., Fashion and Modernity2[IRUG%HUJ ²
POPULAR MUSICAL THEATRE, CULTURAL TRANSFER, MODERNITIES / 9
RI6LPSOLFLWDVHYHUEHLQJDEOHWR ÀQGD´7DXWHQ]LHQPlGHOµ7DXWHQ]LHQJLUORYHU WKH
age of 17 who has not yet been kissed.20$VNHGZKHUH\RXQJ%HUOLQHUVUHQGH]YRXVIRU
romantic encounters, Trude, in a song, tells her father about the KdW—the Kaufhaus des
Westens on Tauentzienstraße. The song narrates the story of a mother and her daughter
RQDQLQQRFHQWYLVLWWRWKHGHSDUWPHQWVWRUHWRJHWKHU6RRQKRZHYHUWKHPRWKHUÀQGV
herself alone because her daughter sets off for the refreshment room where she keeps a
rendezvous. Here, Freund was relatively explicit in the recognition of the department
store as a sexualized space offering the opportunity for men and women to mingle
relatively freely. Against the complaints of critics of the new department stores, who
frequently highlighted their corrupting effects (invariably on women), the German
version of The Arcadians allowed for a celebration of these shopping cathedrals as a
new heterosocial space, although not without some nuanced regret at the advanced
knowingness of the Tautenzienmädel.
Most of this adaptation, however, was broadly compatible with the London version.
The Arcadians, like many musical comedies before it, revolved around what contem-
poraneous sociologist Thorstein Veblen called the leisure class and a culture based
on consumption, which took dress “as an expression of the pecuniary culture.”21 The
German version entirely bought into such ideas, with the crucial difference that here
WKH\EHFDPHFHQWHUHGRQWKH%HUOLQ PHWURSROLVDQGZKHUH WKH\FLUFXODWHGLQDUDWKHU
PRUHULVTXpHQYLURQPHQWDQGRQHPRUHGHHSO\HQJDJHGZLWKWKHWUDQVIRUPLQJQDWXUH
RIFRQVXPHUVRFLHW\7KXVLQWKH%HUOLQYHUVLRQ)UHXQGEXLOGVDPELYDOHQWMRNHVDURXQG
brand-name department stores that are no longer nouns referring to material objects
in reality, but verbs: “gewertheimt, getiezt, gejandorft, gegersontµ³VLJQLÀHUVWKDW LVRI
nothing less than being and doing in the modern mechanizing world.22
At the same time, the adaptation of Schwindelmeier & Co. emphatically laid claim to
the modern metropolis. Indeed, shifting the title to the name of a consumerist emporium
as the antithesis of Arcadia may have made a subtle registration of its interest, and
loyalties, in this respect. One of the more obvious indicators, however, of its adaptive
instinct involved redrawing the dimensions of the central character of the show, Smith,
to make him consistent with a version of racialized social modernity already familiar
to audiences at the Metropol-Theater, but quite absent from the West End stage.
7KH0HWURSRO7KHDWHURIZDVWRDVLJQLÀFDQWGHJUHHWKHLQYHQWLRQRI)UHXQG
2I-HZLVK EDFNJURXQGWKRXJK HQWLUHO\DVVLPLODWHG LQWRXUEDQ%HUOLQ FXOWXUHKH IUH-
quently included Jewish characters in his revues, operettas, and other entertainments.
One standard incarnation was the “comically unattractive Jewish man who, through
a mixture of brave cleverness and naïve ignorance, surmounted the trials and tribula-
WLRQVRI KLVDWWHPSWWR DVVLPLODWHLQWRPLGGOHFODVV %HUOLQµ23 Actor Guido Thielscher,
a Gentile comedian who often played this kind of stereotype in shows staged at the
Metropol-Theater, was cast in Schwindelmeier & Co.DV 0HLHU ,Q WKH %HUOLQ YHUVLRQ
Meier became a character of this same type—a comedy Jew, laughed at not least for his
attempts at assimilation, but also for his comic engagement with the stereotype itself.
For, as Otte has shown, the Metropol’s revues, by “overstating the image of a ‘Jew’
20 Freund, Schwindelmeier & Co., act 2, scene 11 (n.p.).
21 Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899; reprint, New York: Prometheus, 1998), 167–87.
22 Schwindelmeier & Co., act 2, scene 6 (n.p.).
23 Otte, Jewish Identities, 241.
10 / /HQ3ODWWDQG 7RELDV%HFNHU
. . . ridiculed the image itself.”24 It is precisely such an overstatement that shapes the
0HLHUFKDUDFWHUDFOXPV\ÀJXUHDOZD\V VHHNLQJKLVRZQ DGYDQWDJHEXWDW WKHVDPH
time humorous, likable, and crucially positioned at the very center of things. Flirting
with Serena after his crash-landing, Meier tells her initially that he is a 35-year-old,
unmarried Roman Catholic—a lie immediately exposed when Meier’s passport slides
out of his pocket:
MEIER: Mein Pass! Oi weh—jetzt geht’s schief! (My passport! Now there’ll be trouble!)
SERENA: (liest/RXLV 0HLHU%HUOLQ 9HUKHLUDWHW  -DKUHDOW³*ODXEH PRVDLVFK 8QG HEHQ
eben hast Du mir erst gesagt . . . ([Reads@/RXLV0HLHU%HUOLQ0DUULHG\HDUV
ROG³IDLWK³-HZLVK%XW\RX MXVWWROGPH
MEIER :DVKDE· LFK VFKRQ JURVV JHVDJW" +HXW]XWDJH PDFKW VLFK MHGHU JHUQ VR MXQJ XQG
JHUPDQLVFKZLHP|JOLFK 6RZKDW·V WKHELJ GHDO" (YHU\RQHOLNHV WRORRN DV
young and Germanic as possible nowadays.)25
Serena discovers that Meier is married, age 55, and Jewish, to which Meier responds
by remarking on the imperatives forcing everyone to pass as young “these days” and
as traditionally Germanic as possible.
From the very beginning of Schwindelmeier & Co., then, a local and heavily racialized
dynamic emerges, which positions the role of the outsider attempting to assimilate at
the center of the metropolitan experience—a move, again, having no parallel in the
English version. Indeed, by comparison, the outsider in The Arcadians (fantasy Arcadians
apart) is treated crudely as the racialized butt of standard jokes. At the beginning of
the show, for example, when Smith discovers that the Arcadians have no knowledge
of money and do not pay rent, he concludes that they “must be Irish.”26 Whatever
WKHUHDOLWLHV RXWVLGHWKH %HUOLQWKHDWUHLWVHHPVWKDW WKH0HWURSRO ZRUNHGWR DPRUH
sophisticated understanding of the city as Israel Zangwill’s “melting pot.”
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show were produced in a common framework that appeared to embrace change and
modernity—a quality that characterized musical comedy and Germen operetta and
UHYXHDWWKLVWLPH DVDQXUEDQHQWHUWDLQPHQWDV ZHOODVWKURZLQJLWLQWR FRQÁLFWZLWK
more high-brow cultures. While intellectual elites typically mourned what was perceived
as a loss of hierarchy and distinction in the modern world, musical theatre celebrated
the inventive consumerism of mass culture, becoming the twice-daily demonstration
of a technological authority that could reproduce the twentieth-century city through
spectacular staging and effects. The upbeat dispensation of gaiety was immanent
in the narratologies of hundreds of shows across the period, which time and again
reproduced for their audiences an energizing experience of living in contemporane-
LW\ÀJ 0XVLFDOWKHDWUH UHÁHFWHGWKH PRGHUQXUEDQ H[SHULHQFHEDFN WRLWV XUEDQ
and suburban audiences in very particular ways, constructing a version of modernity
as much at odds with the prestigious intellectual cultures of the day as it was with
many realities of modern life. For reasons like these, it has been widely understood
as a generic culture of the metropolis, a status that our examination of transfer culture
KDVFRQÀUPHG³XSWRDSRLQWDQGZLWKVRPHTXDOLÀFDWLRQV³DWOHDVWGXULQJWKLVHDUO\
period of transfer.
24 Ibid., 263.
25 Schwindelmeier & Co., act 1, scene 7 (n.p.).
26 See Ambient and Thompson, The Arcadians, act 1 (n.p.).
POPULAR MUSICAL THEATRE, CULTURAL TRANSFER, MODERNITIES / 11
Wartime Musicals
This lively transfer culture was wrecked by the outbreak of World War I. After a
brief period of complete closure, theatre land in both sites reopened. In the early part
of the hostilities, inward-looking patriotism became the new fashion. Jingoistic revues,
such as Business as Usual at the Hippodrome, Kam’rad Männe at the Thalia-Theater,
Immer feste druffDWWKH%HUOLQHU Odds and Ends at the Ambassadors, Woran wir denken:
Bilder aus großer Zeit at the Metropol, and a string of others opening in 1914 became the
standard fare. As several historians have indicated, however, audiences soon tired of
this kind of show, especially after it became clear that the war would not be over in a
matter of weeks, as many had predicted. Musical theatres, again in both sites, reverted
to more traditional, romantic, and sentimental fare. With the odd exception—The Better
’Ole (1917), for example, which, uniquely for a West End musical of the time, was set
Figure 1. Die Kino-Königin (1913). “The upbeat dispensation of gaiety.”
(Reproduced by permission of Alan L. Rebbeck.)
12 / /HQ3ODWWDQG 7RELDV%HFNHU
at the front—entertainment distracted by being removed from the war zone and was
expected to operate as “a good sound tonic.”27 As opposed to embracing modernity,
musicals now often took the form of exotic spectacles set in faraway places. Daly
Theatre’s spectacular productions of The Maid of the Mountains (1917) and A Southern
Maid (1917) were symptomatic here, as was the pantomime orientalism of Chu Chin
Chow (1917), a classic piece of wartime escapism.
,QWKH%HUOLQFRXQWHUSDUWDGLVWLQFWO\QRVWDOJLFRSHUHWWDDOPRVWHQWLUHO\GLVSODFHGWKH
fashion for contemporaneity previously evident in operettas and prewar revues. The
latter fell into sharp decline, both at the Metropol and elsewhere. Fritzi Massary, once
a star of Schulz’s famous prewar revues, continued to reign supreme though under a
very different regime that was now characterized by the huge success of such shows as
Leo Fall’s Die Kaiserin (1915), Offenbach’s Grande-Duchess (1916), Emmerich Kálmán’s
Die Csárdásfüstin (1915), and the immensely popular Die Rose von Stambul (1916), also
by Fall. Even composers usually considered modernizers of operetta returned to more
traditional forms, which were retrospective and nostalgic. In a dynamic that continued
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Through an orientation either glossed or ignored in cultural histories focused on the
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even more appreciative of this romantic fare than those in Vienna. In the 1920s and
beyond, alongside the infamous avant-gardism and nude stages, a much more sedate
%HUOLQRSHUHWWDFRQWLQXHGWRÁRXULVK DVWKHVWDSOH RISRSXODUPXVLFDO WKHDWUH,I´WKH
left, the intellectuals, and the cabaret crowd” mocked it, “middle-of-the-road and low-
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century.28,QGHHG RSHUHWWD ZDV FUHDWLQJ D QHZ WUDGLWLRQDOLVW VFKRRO RI ZKLFK %HUOLQ
was becoming the principal exponent.
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all the appearance of being at war, responded in parallel ways. The operetta so popular
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increasingly outmoded musical comedy and Englishness rendered the former impos-
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safer ground, not least by displacing the social engagement and energetic modernism
of an earlier musical theatre culture with escapism and fantasy of another order.
“From Austria”: Postwar Rapprochement
Producers were wary about reintroducing German-style musical theatre into the
:HVW(QG DIWHUWKH ZDU:KLOH %ULWLVKVWDJHV ZHUHFORVHGWR WKHOLNHV RI /HKiU )DOO
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certainly, but also as manifestations of popular national taste and style. Indeed, operetta
ZDVVRFORVHO\LGHQWLÀHGZLWKFRQVHUYDWLYHQRWLRQVRI*HUPDQ\EHWZHHQWKHZDUVWKDW
it later became one of the few versions of popular musical entertainment sponsored
and celebrated by National Socialism—once “cleansed” of Jewish personnel. Lehár’s
works, for example, were continually performed under the Third Reich, and he ac-
cepted awards like the Ring of Honour and Hitler’s Goethe-Medallion.
27 The Era, 26 September 1919 (n.p.).
28 Richard Traubner, Operetta: A Theatrical History (New York: Doubleday, 1983), 259.
29 Ibid., 254.
POPULAR MUSICAL THEATRE, CULTURAL TRANSFER, MODERNITIES / 13
,WZDVVLPLODUO\ EHFDXVHRI WKHSRWHQWLDO LGHQWLÀFDWLRQV ZLWKUDFH DQGQDWLRQ WKDW
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rapprochement. In April 1920, producer Albert De Courville wrote to The Times asking
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prevailing in pre-war days.”30 Eager to reassure that he would not be taking on this
responsibility personally, De Courville went on to point out some of the anomalies of
the continuing embargo. He was hearing, he wrote, “reports daily of the production
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Other rumors were in circulation: “Franz Lehár has, I understand, lately written a
comic opera generally admitted to be better even than his Merry Widow, and other
‘enemy’ composers—some quite unknown—are also said to be doing brilliant work.”
There were signs, De Courville continued, of a shift in public attitudes. At “a recent
concert in London . . . a few members of the audience who were hostile to German
music, were shouted down by an overwhelming majority.”32 De Courville pointed to
the paradox of the “undiminished enthusiasm of English audiences for Wagnerian
opera” and posed the central question frankly:
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Lehár is going over, and Reinhardt has been invited. Are we in the theatrical world free
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a production of a Lithuanian show, followed by one from Czecho-Slovakia, and proceed-
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VROXWLRQRIWKH GLIÀFXOW\33
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in the early 1920s was characterized by advanced forms of amelioration and subterfuge,
in some ways suggestive of the kind of creeping Germanicization half-jokingly visual-
ized by the West End producer. As had been the case in the prewar years though only
PRUHVRWKHVHVH[SRUWV HVSHFLDOO\WR%ULWDLQ UHPDLQHGFRQWLQJHQWRQ HODERUDWH
disguise. Künneke’s Der Vetter aus Dingsda (The Cousin from Nowhere), for example, a
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as Continental, written by “Continental writers and a Continental composer.”34 Other
musical plays were internationalized. For example, Wenn Liebe erwacht (Love’s Awaken-
ing) became “an Italian story . . . set to music by a German . . . [with] the chief male
role [being] acted by a Turk.”35 The designation “from Austria” became an especially
important product-marker for the new transfer market, for obvious reasons. The
central priority was to establish distance between the shows and modern industrial
Germany—still the new power in central Europe, although now struggling under
the severe constraints of postwar treaties. Through association with the “golden age”
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invoked a more neutral, much less threatening version of Germany. Reduced from its
once vast territories to the much smaller Alpine state we know today, Austria in its
VWDJHYHUVLRQFRXOGEHUHQGHUHGSDODWDEOHWR%ULWLVKWKHDWUHJRHUV7KXV*LOEHUW·VVKRZ
30 The Times (London), 8 April 1920, 8.
31 Ibid.
32 Ibid.
33 Ibid.
34 The Times (London), 26 February 1923, 8.
35 The Stage, 22 April 1922, 14.
14 / /HQ3ODWWDQG 7RELDV%HFNHU
Die Frau im Hermelin (The Lady of the Rose) was adapted in 1922 not from German at all,
but “from the Austrian by Mr. Frederick Lonsdale.”36 Fall’s Madame PompadourÀUVW
SHUIRUPHGDW WKH %HUOLQHU7KHDWHU LQ EHFDPHD ´9LHQQHVHPXVLFDO FRPHG\µDW
Daly’s.37$UWLFOHVRQ´7KH%HUOLQ6WDJHµDW RQHWLPHUHJXODUIHDWXUHVLQThe Stage Year
Book, became displaced by articles on “The Vienna Stage,” which made reference to
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substantially cloaked.38
Through such strategies, West End producers and the theatre press made postwar
*HUPDQRSHUHWWDVDFFHSWDEOHWR%ULWLVKWDVWH:KDWPDGHWKHPKXJHO\SRSXODUKRZHYHU
was another question, one ultimately connected to the particular narratologies and the
compositional, performance, and production styles deployed in these musicals. In all
these respects and more, the postwar shows were typically conservative. They may
have emanated from the modern, industrial capital that was now the primary producer
and exporter of operettas, as well as the base for its key composers and writers, but
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to most versions of modernity. However much it was a German product, 1920s and
’30s operetta stood well clear of collapsing economic conditions and the ideological
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of “the ÀQGHVLqFOH, pre–World War era” representing a mythical historical age “with
its uniforms, its balls, its political intrigue, and its intoxicating glamour,” which had
strong appeal in the wider world.39 In much the same way that, say, the American
Western in the 1950s and ’60s became a global commodity signifying “universal”
values, so also these musicals, established as Austrian during the volatile period be-
tween the wars, became a brand of much wider range. As De Courville insisted, this
return to a mythical aristocratic culture represented something “delectable” at a time
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glamour and order.
The New Transfer Market
Under these conditions, musical theatre exchange did eventually restart in the early
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though musicals returned to the transfer market, they now travelled almost exclusively
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on the ascendancy just before the war, was very much restored; West End musical
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much the stock-in-trade of West End musical comedies and earlier German operet-
tas, was no longer viable. The war had rendered their particular variety of naïve and
cheerful optimism obsolete in the face of the modern world, not to say tasteless. At the
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sophisticated innovations of an American stage now strongly competing for author-
36 The Times (London), 22 February 1922, 10.
37 Louis Henry Jacobsen, “The Drama of the Year,” in The Stage Year Book, 1921–25, 7.
38 Ibid., 37–40.
39 Traubner, Operetta, 249.
POPULAR MUSICAL THEATRE, CULTURAL TRANSFER, MODERNITIES / 15
ity. In these circumstances, the traditional West End product became more insular;
it persevered with a now outmoded version of things right through to 1939, when a
show like Me and My Girl could still attract large domestic audiences and became the
curious exception that proved the rule. Just one West End musical comedy, Mr Cinders,
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and authority enjoyed from the mid-1890s to around 1912. Other forms of West End
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penetrate the overseas market in the same way as early musical comedy had. Even
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perceived to be untranslatable in Continental terms.
Second, the shows in this new wave of operetta were not the same products as
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distinctly modern stylization, its postwar productions, as we have seen, returned to
the security of more conventional Viennese forms. Here, the once characteristic mix
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of the modern gave way to spectacles of a different kind: historical romances like Ma-
dame Pompadour and Die Dubarry, both of which were set in pre-revolutionary France;
or else, like Lehár’s Die Blaue Mazur (1920), which played in London in 1927 as The
Blue Mazurka, and Wenn Liebe erwacht, they existed in a mythic no-time and fairytale
no-place. Here, contemporary complexities were displaced by a return to the safeties
and securities of aristocratic order, traditional romance, and waltzes, the standard
components of a Viennese musical theatre now being virtually mass-produced in
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Play after play during this period followed the same design, often after an initial
nod to the contemporary condition then back-pedaling into less controversial terri-
tory. Die Frau im Hermelin, for example, notionally a historical musical, nevertheless
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a real European revolution, it was set in the days of the Risorgimento. Within a short
time, however, the show had become a romantic Gothic romance, its terms of reference
shifting from revolution to the more domestic domain of a lady’s honor. Der Vetter
aus Dingsda, on the other hand, began with contemporary dialogue and potential con-
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coming of age and exerting authority over her guardian quickly shifts gear when a
modern house is transformed into “a castle in Faeryland / As in the tales of the days
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are ceremoniously whisked off to make way for the return of a traditionalist cousin
singing “a yodelling song.”40
In this respect, The Land of Smiles, a Richard Tauber vehicle, was highly suggestive, not
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modern and modernizing musical theatre became conservative and backward-looking.
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and Vienna, becoming a repertoire piece in all four venues before it arrived in London
40 Fred Thompson, The Cousin from Nowhere%ULWLVK/LEUDU\ PDQXVFULSW/RUG&KDPEHUODLQ·V3OD\V
1923, 4, 5.
16 / /HQ3ODWWDQG 7RELDV%HFNHU
in 1931. Here, it was adapted by Harry Graham, who worked on a number of transla-
tions during this period, including The Lady of the Rose, Madame Pompadour, The Blue
Mazurka, and The White Horse Inn. Set in prewar 1912, it is aristocratic in setting and
traditional in terms of music and dance, but it does not, unlike many of the 1920s and
’30s operettas, use recitative to any effect. On the contrary, it seems a modern operetta
in the formal sense that it inserts songs into contemporary dialogue. More than that,
it begins with a modern, liberalizing narratology where a young modern European,
Lisa, rejects the advances of her childhood friend Gustl for the attractions of an exotic
Chinese aristocrat Prince Sou-Choung—an attraction that Gustl, now a dashing young
soldier, regards as nothing less than horrible. Lisa responds with customary vigor:
LISA: Oh, you silly soldiers! You’re so conventional, narrow! Hasn’t a Chinaman got a soul
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GUSTL: Not where white women are concerned, no!
Figure 2. Madame Pompadour (1922). “The securities of aristocratic
order, traditional romance and waltzes.” (Reproduced by permission
of Alan L. Rebbeck.)
POPULAR MUSICAL THEATRE, CULTURAL TRANSFER, MODERNITIES / 17
LISA:HUHQ·WKLVFRXQWU\PHQFLYLOLVHGFHQWXULHVEHIRUHRXUVKDGEHJXQWREH VDYDJHV"<RX
make me tired!41
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to China where the former ambassador now sits in state as the governor of Shantung
province. They are a modern, young, tennis-playing couple, although Sou-Choung must
negotiate the forces of tradition that require him to marry the four wives picked by his
family for him. Reluctantly, he agrees to proceed with these formal requirements, but
insists that he will change the ancient laws that prevent him making Lisa his “true”
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has not reckoned with the forcefulness of his European wife, who refuses to allow this
ceremony of marriage to take place under any circumstances and threatens to leave.
At this point, The Land of Smiles takes an astonishing turn. The charming, romantic
leading man Sou-Choung undergoes a virtually complete transformation. He impris-
ons his wife, and in an offstage scene has the tongue ripped out of the mouth of a
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Gustl turns up to rescue Lisa from the clutches of a now disconcertingly alien Other.
The romance that promised to challenge the conventional barriers of race and culture,
like an early twentieth-century version of West Side Story, transmutes into a warning
parable as the story now frantically reinforces those barriers. In this sense, The Land of
SmilesQRWRQO\FRQÀUPVWKDWRSHUHWWDVRIWKHVDQG ·VZHUHDFRPPRGLW\VLWX-
ated in particularly conservative ways, but it also mirrors a wider historical narrative
in which the traditional nature of musical theatre becomes much less compromised
by its attraction to, and attempted assimilation of, the modern.
As the standard narrative dynamic shifted, so too did the nature of translation. The
extreme versions of adaptation where songs were routinely cut and/or inserted and
dialogue radically rewritten, which were typical of the 1890s and 1900s, was displaced
during the 1920s and ’30s. Now, the task facing producers wishing to transfer suc-
cessful shows was no longer how to reinterpret them for local audiences, but rather
how to reproduce the original in as pure a form as possible. Thus in the later period,
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treated more cautiously—in the case of the musical text and its arrangement, with
something approaching reverence. So much so was this true, that even quite small di-
vergences now required explanations. The West End production of The Dubarry (1932),
for example, was close to the German version in almost all respects. The libretto copy
in the Lord Chamberlain’s collection contains a note providing the raison d’etre for a
relatively minor change: “in the German version Jeanne sang a few words of her song
at the end of this scene but it is much more effective dramatically if the only music
comes from the orchestra.”42 Shows were now imported with minimal interference,
often coming over with their star performers intact, Tauber being the obvious example
of an operetta singer who could be marketed internationally in this way. Sometimes,
shows were bought as a complete package. After it had played to packed houses for
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Oswald Stoll brought Im Weißen Rössl (1930) to the Coliseum Theatre in London, where
it opened in 1932 as The White Horse Inn. After several months of twice-daily shows,
41 The Land of Smiles%ULWLVK/LEUDU\PDQXVFULSW/RUG &KDPEHUODLQ·V3OD\V
42 Eric Maschwitz, The Dubarry%ULWLVK/LEUDU\PDQXVFULSW/RUG &KDPEHUODLQ·V3OD\V
18 / /HQ3ODWWDQG 7RELDV%HFNHU
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cities. In transfer terms, however, the point about The White Horse Inn was not just the
extent of its travel, but also its consistency and faithfulness to the original. Indeed, it
was bought and sold complete with book, music, stage design, Tyrolese singers and
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White Horse Syncopators. Only the main cast was changed, in part because German
and Austrian actors were unable to perform in English, but also because the reality of
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a play set in the Alps near Salzburg. In the main, however, the ruralist fantasy of this
singspiel proved eminently marketable outside of Germany and, after its success in
London, the show moved on in this form to Paris, Vienna, New York, and many other
cities. It was a virtually complete touring product, a forerunner in many ways of the
modern mega-musical—the late modern digitized version of musical theatre that can
be reproduced anywhere as part of the general globalization of cultural production.43
In sharp contrast to the earlier period then, the 1920s and ’30s saw much greater
conservatism and product stability in cultural transfer, as well as a taste for history
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unwillingness to interfere with the prototype text was a consequence of the special
reverence held for German musical products as high-status works of art, reinforced
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Germanophilism had been just as strong in the Victorian and Edwardian periods and
yet had not prevented major tampering with, for example, Lehár’s The Merry Widow. In
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of scenes, interpolations of new songs, the use of modern singers with limited vocal
ranges (much to Lehár’s initial regret), and the sheer humiliation of an added comic
sketch featuring Hetty the Hen. Even if popular operetta was becoming more elevated
by the 1920s and ’30s, it would not explain the shift away from contemporaneity that
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this period. It is possible, of course, that there is no singular dynamic behind these
multiple shifts, just as there may be no single explanation for what are clearly complex
cultural histories. In our view, however, and it is a provisional one, it does seem that
there is some kind of consistency involved here. The displacement of a lively, competi-
tive, and contemporary cosmopolitanism by the narrative and stylistic securities of
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adaptation culture to the conservatism in which the prototype show is reproduced in
almost perfect likeness. There is a strong sense here of an asserting, advancing, and
genuinely cosmopolitan popular culture being transformed by global war, economic
upheavals, and new levels of social and political bifurcation into something more
retrospective and retreatist. In this case, transfer history leads to a substantial revision
of our sense of the engagement between musical theatre and the multiple modernities
of the long turn of century.
43 6HH -%XUVWRQ´7KH 0HJDPXVLFDO1HZ )RUPVDQG 5HODWLRQVLQ*OREDO 3URGXFWLRQµ3K' GLVV
University of London, 1998).
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Article
This book offers the first full historical treatment of a music theatre that was once at the centre of London's West End. From the late Victorian period to the early 1920s, musical comedy was the single most popular form of 'legitimate' theatre entertainment. This lively account establishes musical comedy as one of the first industrial cultures and offers fascinating insights into how it functioned ideologically as a celebrated embracing of the modern condition.