The Land of Smiles

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The Land of Smiles (Das Land des Lächelns) is a romantic operetta in three acts by Franz Lehár. The German language libretto was by Ludwig Herzer (de) and Fritz Löhner-Beda. The performance time is about 100 minutes.

This was one of Lehár's later works, and has a bittersweet ending which the Viennese loved. The title refers to the Chinese custom of smiling, whatever happens in life. (The leading character, Prince Sou-Chong has a song early in the show, "Immer nur lächeln" ("Always smiling") which describes this.)

The Tauberlied[edit]

Lavishly produced, the show was built largely around the performance of the tenor Richard Tauber, a close friend of Lehár's, for whom he customarily wrote a Tauberlied – a signature tune exploiting the exceptional qualities of his voice – in each of his later operettas. On this occasion it was "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" ("You are my heart's delight"), probably the most famous of all the Tauberlieder. Tauber also appeared in the show in London, singing countless encores of his song.

Performance history[edit]

The work was originally produced under the title Die gelbe Jacke (The Yellow Jacket). This was presented at the Theatre an der Wien, Vienna, on 9 February 1923 with Hubert Marischka as Sou-Chong. It was not a great success, and Lehár later revised it, under the new title of Das Land des Lächelns, which was first performed, at the Metropol Theatre, Berlin, on 10 October 1929. Tauber reprised his role in London (1931 and 1932) South Africa (1939) and New York (1946), as well as in Vienna in 1930 (again at the Theatre an der Wien) and in 1938 (at the Vienna State Opera and also in Prague). Tauber also sang it in London and on tour throughout Britain between 1940 and 1942.

Sadler's Wells Opera produced it in London in the late 1950s, after the success of Lehár's The Merry Widow starring June Bronhill had rescued the company from bankruptcy. Starring Charles Craig, Elizabeth Fretwell and Bronhill, the show didn't attract the same audiences as The Merry Widow. However, Craig's singing on a recording is outstanding, with some top D notes at the end of his big numbers.

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere cast,
9 February 1923
(Conductor: Franz Lehár)
Premiere cast,
10 October 1929
(Conductor: Franz Lehár)
Lisa, Count Ferdinand Lichtenfels' daughter soprano Louise Kartousch Vera Schwarz
Count Gustav von Pottenstein tenor Josef König Willi Stettner
Prince Sou-Chong tenor Hubert Marischka Richard Tauber
Princess Mi, Sou-Chong's sister soprano Betty Fischer Hella Kürty
Tschang, Sou-Chong's uncle baritone Adolf Edgar Licho
Chief eunuch tenor
Ling, head priest baritone
Count Ferdinand Lichtenfels spoken
Lore, Lisa's niece spoken
Officers, mandarins, friends, brides, servants, maids (Chorus, ballet, extras)

Synopsis[edit]

The operetta is set in Vienna and China in 1912. In act 1 in Vienna, the heroine Countess Lisa marries a Chinese prince and returns with him to his homeland despite the warnings of her friends and family. In act 2, in Peking, she finds that she is unable to come to terms with his culture, and especially that he must take other wives. He assures her that it is just a formality, but unhappiness is inevitable, and she is locked in the palace. Her love changes to hate. In act 3, Prince Sou-Chong is left alone while his beloved Lisa returns to her homeland. His sister, Princess Mi had also become attached to the Viennese official Gustav, and so the ending is doubly sad. But the prince respects the rule of his custom: always smile.

Film adaptations[edit]

The operetta was twice adapted into film

Recordings[edit]

There are also extracts in Franz Lehár Conducts Richard Tauber (1929–1931), with 6 tracks performed by Richard Tauber (Sou-Chong), Vera Schwarz (Lisa) and the Berlin State Opera Orchestra (Pearl CD).


References[edit]