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OPERETTA by Richard TRAUBNER (1897-1951)

2nd edition, Routledge, (Taylor & Francis Bks Ltd) 2003

ISBN 0-415-96641-8. pp.498. £20


One of the best reference books of the Musical Theatre is Richard Traubner's book, ‘Operetta’.

Originally published in 1983 it is now reprinted in a second edition.

There is little material around to cover the history, development, composers, librettists and stars of this important genre. Apart from Ganzl's The British Musical Theatre and Musicals, there is no better book than this to dip into for acquiring a perspective on shows or the activity surrounding a particular production. Of especial interest to me is the valuable detail Traubner gives about composers' backgrounds, training and career structure. It covers all principal premières that took place in Britain, Europe and America with balanced weighting of detail.

The second edition of the book remains the same (including index), but is preceded by a second preface that is in essence an epilogue chapter of substantial length (pp.37). I would have preferred this to appear at the back of a book, the content of which is laid out in accurate chronological order. This new edition could have given thought to including omissions from the 1st edition index and providing an appendix for 78, LP and CD recordings. Though CD information may become dated within a decade its inclusion would have provided a valuable resource. The CD distributors deserve all the publicity they can get if fresh recordings are to continue to materialise.

Traubner, as a New York journalist and lecturer, writes in an easy style and generally deals with popular composers in some depth. His delivery of information is succinct and I was particularly pleased at the detail given to such minor composers as Cellier and Audran, yet noticed no mention of Maillard or Dumas. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company (one of the world's most famous for keeping a tradition afloat) is given the prominence it rightly deserves. However, the importance of those ruthless cuts to the Savoy operas that were made by J.P. Gordon in the Twenties was not mentioned in the first edition, or here in the second edition.

The chapters on Broadway and West End might have benefited from updating with some of the material appearing in the 2nd Preface, but I do appreciate the economics of keeping the page numbering the same. The new material covers a detailed account of productions and recordings that have taken place in the last 20 years. It includes the New D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, Opéra Lyon, Neuköllner Opera, as well as the worthwhile contribution of recordings by Ohio Light Opera (who provided first complete recordings of Monckton's famous The Arcadians and Straus's Chocolate Soldier) It's a pity that the 2002/3 re-releases by Accord of their French Operette series appeared too late to be included in the publication. The rare titles included in these recordings would have been worth a mention. (See reviews on this Musicweb site under composer names like Lecocq and Maillard.)

It is good to find that this book is still in print and rejuvenated by the addition of a new chapter and attractively fresh cover.

Raymond Walker



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