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Franz Lehár

Hungarian Born 30 Apr 1870 Died 24 Oct 1948

Franz Lehar was born on 30th April 1870 in Komaron (then part of Hungary but now Slovakia), the eldest son of a military bandmaster.  He studied at the Prague Conservatory from the age of 15, learning violin and music theory, but on the advice of Dvorak concentrated on composition.  After he graduated Lehar joined the Austro-Hungarian army and played in his father's orchestra, and at twenty became the youngest bandmaster in the army.  He met the librettist Felix Falzari, and together they wrote Lehar's first opera Kukuschka.  After being posted to Vienna he wrote a waltz for Princess Metternich's ball in 1902, which attracted much attention and allowed Franz to take up the post of Kappelmeister at the Theater an der Wien.  There he wrote the operetta Wiener Frauen (also in 1902), and at the same time Der Rastelbinder to the libretto of the chief producer at a rival theatre - when his duplicity was dicovered, he was forced to resign.

Three years later Die Lustige Witwe (the Merry Widows) was premiered at the Theater an der Wien, and was a huge success all across the world.  At one time Buenos Aires saw it running simultaneously at five different theatres in five different languages.  It retains its popularity still, selling out performances, and being played on television and in film, as a ballet and on ice.  Other major works composed in the next few years were The Count of Luxembourg (1909), Gipsy Love, and Eva.  Lehar's output diminished during the war, but in 1922 he met and was inspired by the young tenor Richard Tauber, for whose voice he created six operettas - Paganini (1925), The Czarevitch (1926), Frederica (1928), The Land of Smiles (1929), Schon ist die Welt (1931) and Giuditta (1934).

In 1935 Lehar founded his own publishing house in order to have control over his works, acquiring the rights to his works from other publishers and publishing various definitive editions.  He died on 24th October 1948, famous for his operettas but also having written sonatas, symphonic poems, marches, and dances.

Related composers: Dvorak

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