or Blossom Time or Lilac Time
Fritz Schrödter as Schubert and
Anny Rainer as Hannerl, 1916
|Lyrics||Alfred Maria Willner
|Book||Alfred Maria Willner
|Basis||1912 novel Schwammerl by Rudolf Hans Bartsch|
1922 West End
Das Dreimäderlhaus (House of the Three Girls), adapted into English-language versions as Blossom Time and Lilac Time, is a Viennese pastiche operetta with music by Franz Schubert, rearranged by Hungarian Heinrich Berté (1857–1924), and a libretto by Alfred Maria Willner and Heinz Reichert. The work gives a fictionalized account of Schubert's romantic life, and the story was adapted from the 1912 novel Schwammerl by Rudolf Hans Bartsch (1873–1952). Originally the score was mostly Berté, with just one piece of Schubert's ("Ungeduld" from Die schöne Müllerin), but the producers required Berté to discard his score and create a pasticcio of Schubert music.
The original production opened at the Raimundtheater in Vienna on 15 January 1916 and ran for over 650 performances in its original run in Austria and for hundreds more in Germany, followed by many successful revivals. It starred Fritz Schrödter as Schubert and Anny Rainer as Hannerl. Schrödter was already 60 in 1916. In 1886 he had sung the part of the "Prince of Song" (i.e. Schubert) in Franz von Suppé's operetta about Schubert. The operetta spawned a sequel entitled Hannerl. Debuting during World War I, the operetta's popularity was fueled by the public's taste for nastalgia, harnessing an old-fashioned, sentimental story and Schubert's familiar music. Schubert worked hard during his lifetime to become a successful opera composer but found little success in this genre of music. With Das Dreimäderlhaus, ironically, his music finally became famous in a stage work.
Das Dreimäderlhaus then premiered in Paris on May 7, 1921 in a French adaptation by Hugues Delorme and Léon Abric called Chanson d'amour (Song of Love). The operetta was a success in France, and soon an English language adaption opened on Broadway as Blossom Time, with a new arrangement of Schubert's music by Sigmund Romberg and an adapted libretto by Dorothy Donnelly. This debuted at the Ambassador Theatre on September 29, 1921, where it ran for 592 performances; it was revived several times on Broadway over the next two decades. In London, the operetta was called Lilac Time, with an adapted libretto by Adrian Ross and music arranged by George H. Clutsam, using some of Berté's work. Lilac Time opened at the Lyric Theatre on December 22, 1922 and ran for 626 performances. Both the Broadway and West End versions toured extensively in subsequent decades and were frequently revived until the 1950s.
The operetta received productions in over 60 countries and was translated into numerous languages. By 1961, the piece was estimated to have played over 85,000 performances worldwide. It still receives occasional productions.
In the spring of 1826, Schubert, a poor young composer, has quarters in an old Viennese house together with two friends. The three daughters of Christian Tschöll, the court glass maker, visit the three friends. Two of the girls are in love with Schubert's roommates, and the third, Hannerl, is chaperoning her sisters. More of Schubert's friends come to visit. The father arrives in search of his daughters. Schubert's two roommates drink with Tschöll in their courtyard, underneath a Lilac tree, and he agrees to their engagements with his daughters. Schubert takes on Hannerl as his singing pupil, and although the two fall in love, they are each too shy to reveal their feelings.
A couple of months later, the first two daughters are marrying their fiancés at Tschöll's house, and the three roommates are all guests at the wedding. Actress Giuditta Grisi, the mistress of Baron Franz Schober, one of Schubert's friends, arrives. She is jealous and believes that he must be cheating on her. She assumes that Hannerl is the other woman and warns her to stay away from her man. Schubert, still too unable to tell Hannerl that he loves her, instead asks Schober to sing a song that he has written for her ("Ungeduld"). Hannerl misunderstands Grisi's warning, believing it to be about Schubert rather than Schober. She turns away from the composer and falls in love with Schober.
In the Prater the following morning, everyone assembles. Eventually, Schubert ends up alone, disappointed, but consoled by Hannerl's happiness and by his music.
American version: Blossom Time
Five years after the Vienna opening, in 1921, the Shubert brothers acquired the American rights to Das Dreimäderlhaus with a view to customising the operetta for American audiences. They hired Donnelly and Romberg (their house composer) to adapt the libretto and music. The same team, three years later, adapted Old Heidelberg to make The Student Prince, but in the case of The Student Prince, the entire score was written by Romberg, not by another composer. The Broadway production of Blossom Time opened at the Ambassador Theatre on September 29, 1921, where it ran for 592 performances, starring Bertram Peacock and Olga Cook. It became the second longest-running Broadway musical of the 1920s and, after extensive tours, played Broadway again in 1939 and 1943.
Donnelly changed the character names and several of the settings. The plot follows the basic story of the original, but many significant details are changed, well-known Schubert pieces are gratuitously inserted and historically inaccurate material familiar to Americans of the era is added. For example, in Act I, Schubert writes "Ständchen" for Count Scharntoff, who plans to give it (as his own work) to his wife, who is in love with Schober. Schubert's friends arrange for Hannerl ("Mitzi" in this version) to have singing lessons with Schubert as the cover for why the other daughters are there, when the father appears. They then get him drunk so that he agrees to the double wedding. In Act III, some of Schubert's works are about to be given in a concert, but Schubert is too ill to attend. His friends return to his lodgings after the concert just before Schubert dies, surrounded by angels, as "Ave Maria" is heard.
British version: Lilac Time
In 1922, in England, Das Dreimäderlhaus was adapted as Lilac Time by Adrian Ross with music by George H. Clutsam. Clutsam, an Australian composer, moved to London and wrote, among other things, a 1912 biography of Schubert. Later, he turned to the more profitable field of composing scores for musical comedies. Clutsam's adaptation hews more closely to Berté's original than does Romberg's. Lilac Time opened at the Lyric Theatre on December 22, 1922 and ran for 626 performances, starring Courtice Pounds and Clara Butterworth. Among many revivals was a 1928–1929 production at Daly's Theatre. In 1959, June Bronhill and Thomas Round recorded Lilac Time for HMV when they were stars of Sadler's Wells Opera. The piece enjoyed numerous revivals in London.
The plot of Lilac Time is close to the German original. As in the other adaptations, however, the names of the three sisters are changed. The dialogue is very dated, and a more recent libretto written by Phil Park in 1973 is available, with a new musical adaptation by Ronald Hanmer.
The tenor Richard Tauber played Schubert in several productions and tours of Das Dreimäderlhaus in Europe. He presented a version of it in 1933 at the Aldwych Theatre under the title Lilac Time, translated and adapted by himself and Sylvio Mossée. Tauber also made a film version in 1934 with Jane Baxter.
Tauber also worked with Clutsam on a new version entitled Blossom Time based on Tauber's 1934 film. Clutsam included more new material in this version. It debuted on tour in the British provinces, moving to the Lyric Theatre in London on 17 March 1942.
Al Goodman conducted an album of 10 selections from Blossom Time for RCA Victor in the 1940s, which was briefly issued on LP. Readers Digest included a selection in their album A Treasury of Great Operettas, first offered for sale in 1963. Capriccio released a recording of Das Dreimäderlhaus in 1997, conducted by Alfred Walter, and Ohio Light Opera released a recording of the opera in 2002. In 2005, UK label Classics for Pleasure, a branch of EMI, released on CD the 1959 HMV recording of Lilac Time
- Clive, Peter. Schubert and His World: A Biographical Dictionary, p. 14
- Information from exhibition and photo site
- Information from the Schubert Institute website
- Notes to Albany Records 2002 recording by Ohio Light Opera
- Traubner, Richard. Operetta: A Theatrical History (2003 Routledge), pp. 424-26 ISBN 0-415-96641-8
- Information about a 2008 production of the original version at Stadttheater Baden
- Green, Stanley "Blossom Time" in Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre (1980) Da Capo Press, pp. 36-37 ISBN 0-306-80113-2
- Information including the plot of Blossom Time
- The Times, 27 December 1928
- Broadway.com article about Lilac Time and Bronhill
- Green, Stanley "Blossom Time" in Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre (1980) Da Capo Press, p. 252 ISBN 0-306-80113-2
- Information about the various film versions
- "Berte: Das Dreimaderlhaus / Walter, Dewald, Pfeffer", ArkivMusic.com, accessed 12 October 2012
- Article discussing German, English and other versions of this piece from the Schubert Institute, with links to a synopsis and other materials
- Information about the London version and the Park and Hanmer version
- Information about the American version
- A review of Tauber's film called Blossom Time
- Sheet music from Blossom Time
- Information about the Ohio Light Opera 2002 production
- Favorable analysis of the Romberg version
- Photos of postcards for Das Dreimäderlhaus
- Poster from French production
- Antique programmes and images from Blossom Time and Lilac Time