Song of Norway
|Song of Norway|
|Book||Milton Lazarus and Homer Curran|
1945 West End
Song of Norway is an operetta written in 1944 by Robert Wright and George Forrest, adapted from the music of Edvard Grieg and the book by Milton Lazarus and Homer Curran. A very loose film adaptation with major changes to both the book and music was released in 1970.
Song of Norway was originally developed and presented in Los Angeles by Edwin Lester's Los Angeles Civic Light Opera in 1944, with essentially the same cast as seen later on Broadway. After successful runs in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the show opened at the Imperial Theatre in New York on August 21, 1944, and ran for 860 performances. Lawrence Brooks starred as Edvard Grieg. It was also popular in London running for 526 performances at the Palace Theatre, the first Broadway show to cross the Atlantic after the end of the Second World War.
The show is set in Norway in Troldhaugen and Bergen; as well as Copenhagen and Rome in and after 1860. It follows the fictionalized lives of three childhood friends: Edvard Grieg (played in New York by Lawrence Brooks), Nina Hagerup (Helena Bliss) and Rikard Nordraak (Robert Shafer). The play tells of the early struggles of Edvard Grieg and his attempts to develop an authentic Norwegian national music. Grieg dreams of being a great composer and these dreams are shared by his friend Nordraak and Grieg's sweetheart, Nina. Grieg is lured to Italy by the great prima donna Louisa Giovanni, but he finds he cannot create amid all the glitter and excitement and so returns to Norway and his beloved Nina to write his music.
The original Broadway cast featured Irra Petina as fictional opera singer Louisa Giovanni. The show featured dances, both ballet and Norwegian folk dances, choreographed by George Balanchine and performed by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Maria Tallchief, one of the featured dancers, married Balanchine during the run of the show.
The melody of the Norwegian National Anthem, Ja, vi elsker dette landet was actually written by Rikard Nordraak to lyrics written by the Norwegian national poet, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Although Nordraak was in fact the composer who wrote the national anthem, he was portrayed as a poet in the show because it was believed “two composers would be confusing”.
Songs include Prelude & Legend (based on Grieg's A Minor Concerto) Freddy and His Fiddle (based on Norwegian Dance No.2), Now (based on Second Violin Sonata and Waltz), Strange Music (based on Wedding in Troldhaugen), Midsummer's Eve (Scherzo in E), and I Love You (Ich Liebe Dich).
The original Broadway cast recording was released by Decca Records on 6 78-rpm 12 inch discs. Irra Petina was under contract to a competing record label (Columbia), so her part in the “original cast” was sung by Kitty Carlisle, who never actually played the part on Broadway. Decca later released a 331⁄3 rpm single disc LP, with some edits to fit the single-disc medium. In 2004 Decca finally dug the master tapes out of the vault and released the full original album on CD. Columbia Records made a recording in 1959 of the Jones Beach production (which opened in June 1958) with Brenda Lewis and John Reardon, which was released on CD by Masterworks Broadway.
- City Opera: Life of Grieg In Song Of Norway (New York Times by Donal Henaham. Published: September 5, 1981)
- Suskin, Steven."The 1959 Jones Beach Revival of Song of Norway and London's Most Happy Fella" playbill.com, September 5, 2010