In 1930 successfull premieres take place in Vienna and afterwards Berlin. Still in 1930 the Americans are rushing ahead to perform the work under the title 'Paris in Spring', and in 1932 Paris and London are introduced to the operetta.
Up to the present day I signalise performances in the USA (Ohio 2004), Belgium (Kortrijk 2017), Ukraine (Kiev 2016 and 2018), Russia (Moskow and Saint Petersburg 2012), Estonia, Latvia and in 2018 also in Donetsk (Ukraine, but since 2014 governed by the to Russia allied Donetsk People's Republic).
Hereby is striking the great popularity of 'Violet of Montmartre' in Eastern Europe (see YouTube)!
In Germany, Austria and Hungary the work seems to be forgotten, except 'Heut' Nacht hab ich geträumt von dir/This night I dreamed of you...' (lyrics: Alfred Grünwald). which although could not be heard in Vienna! It turned out to a hit in the later Berlin premiere.
In 1952 Werner Schmidt-Boelcke conducted on radio the complete, original Viennese version of 'The Violet...'. So without the song 'This night...'! A CD of the recording is still available. Most important roles are sung by Erika Köth (27 years old then) and the tenor Richard Holm (1912-1988).
'Heut' Nacht hab ich geträumt von dir' was getting through to the repertoire of famous tenors. On YouTube you can hear interpretations - disconnected from the operetta - by Helge Roswaenge, Jussi Björling (in Swedish), Rudolf Schock (in the film 'Die Emmerich Kálmán-Story/Der Czárdáskönig'), Nicolai Gedda, Piotr Beczala, Juan Diego Florez (who accompanies himself on guitar!), etc.
According toVera Kálmán, her husband Imre has written the song for her. This is certainly possible. In 1929 Imre Kálmán, 47 years old and hopeless in love, marries the 22 (possibly 19) years old, Russian migrant Vera Mendelsohn.
Next YouTube upload is an interesting documentary (2003) by Franz Wagner & Otto Schwarz about the two (!) marriages, they made with each other. The lady on the photo is daughter Yvonne.
What's the plot of 'Violet of Montmartre'?
Raoul (Eugène?) Delacroix, a painter, Florimond Hervé, a composer, Henri Murger, a poet live without work and money in a mansard in Montmartre.
The earnings of Raoul's female friend Ninon, who poses for him and elsewhere in Paris also works as a model, make, that the trio does not starve to death.
Violetta, a sweet and sincere streetsinger, who sells violets, joins the four friends. Then Raoul's love for Ninon begins to falter.
Florimond and Henri write an operetta. Ninon is getting ready for the major part in this operette. But it becomes clear now to her, that Raoul falls for Violetta.
After the first act of the premiere Ninon escapes with a wealthy admirer.
However, Violetta covers for her with great success and saves the performance.
This operetta is not an error!
In 2005 the American mezzosoprano Dr. Jessie Wright Martin delves deeply into the operettas of Imre Kálmán.
With her dissertation "A survey of the operettas of Emmerich Kálmán" she holds her Docotorate of Musical Arts degree from Louisiana State University.
Dr. Martin sings the praises of 'Violet of Montmartre': "... a fascinating mixture of French music-hall and soaring Pucciniesque melody and coloratura...with harmonies owing greater debt to Korngold and Richard Strauss than to the world of operetta...".
I want to point out, that for the honored composer Kálmán the jump into the love affair with the unknown fortune hunter Vera must have been a major source of inspiration. The setting of 'Violet of Montmartre' is similar to Puccini's realistic opera 'La Bohème'. The 'vie de bohème', which his five protagonists live, is indeed 'the daily, normal life', to which Kálmán, time and again, refers. There's his sympathy, the essence of his character, which desires for ordinary people, who are carrying art around in their hearts. Like wandering gypsies and fairground artists. Like the real, romantic painter Eugène (Raoul?) Delacroix (1778-1863), the real fellow composer Florimond Hervé (1825-1892) and the real Henri Murger (1822-1861), author of 'Scènes de la Vie de Bohème'. And like the real Imre Kálmán, the famous, but still modest composer, who is concerned about an ordinary girl's fate and wants to share with her a compelling life for the arts.
Undoubtedly Kálmán was familiar with Bernard Shaw's play 'Pygmalion' from 1913. Then it is conceivable that for the figure of violet girl Violetta Shaw's flower girl Eliza Doolittle was a model (also compare the musical 'My fair Lady'!). But not only Eliza Doolitte. Vera Mendelsohn too!
Rudolf Schock & Erika Köth live in 'Violet of Montmartre'
Rather surprisingly, a Viennese (also authentic) song selection from the "almost forgotten" Kálmán operetta 'Violet of Montmartre' is on April 19, 1959 the grand finale of a Munich "Sonntagskonzert/Sunday concert".
Erika Köth sings Violetta, Rudolf Schock Raoul Delacroix and Kurt Eichhorn conducts the 'Munich Broadcast Orchestra'. The complete recording can now be heard on YouTube (please, look and listen at the top of this article!).
Historically it is closely linked to the unforgettably beautiful sung Köth/Schock studio recordings under Wilhelm Schüchter from the second half of the fifties with fragments from 'The Land of Smiles', 'Friederike' and 'The Czarevitch'.
Rudolf Schock sings Raoul's 'Heut' Nacht hab ich geträumt von dir/This night I dreamed of you...'
Rudolf Schock did not sing this tango song in 1959.
One year earlier he did in the film 'Die Emmerich Kálmán-Story/Der Czárdáskönig'.
This film is about Kálmán's life, but the highly romanticized biography confines itself to the young Kálmán, who tries to gain fame as a composer of opera and concert music, but than suddenly makes a big turnaround to operetta.
YouTube-upload 'Kálmán-Story': "fritz51208" (2010):
From the warm-hearted, last year deceised Rudolf Schock worshipper Ludwig Stumpff I got a broadcast copy of 'Heut' Nacht.../This night...', I did not know. Mr. Stumpff could not say when, where and under what conductor Schock sang the song.
I uploaded this recording separate on YouTube. The sound is not optimal, but Schock's performance is very special:
Schock & orchestra don't emphasize the tango time, what is typical for the mild "Argentine tango style". Argentine tango style emphasizes the tango melody. Melodiousness and pregnant text transmission create in Schock's well thought-out interpretation a 'chanson', in which melancholy about what has happened predominates. Raoul must have sung the song in the 1st act of the Berlin premiere. Melancholy could have represented his final farewell to Ninon.
Finally, I'll risk to give some comments on other interpretations of 'Heut' Nacht.../This night...':
The great Swedish tenor Jussi Björling (1911-1960) fully convinces. The orchestral accompaniment puts on the one hand a heavy emphasis on the tango rhythm, but on the other hand she gives the singer all space for sincere passion.
The equally great Danish tenor Helge Roswaenge (1897-1972). who was brilliant both in heroical and lyrical roles, seems to model himself in his 100% lyrical recitation on the touching singing style of the Comedian Harmonists, who also included 'Heut' Nacht...' in their repertoire.
Roswaenge's orchestra chooses a very strong tango rhythm, against which Roswaenge's singing contrasts remarkably.
In 2012 Piotr Beczala sings live 'Heut' Nacht...' in terms of vocality, phrasing
and diction impressivily. However, the song sounds more carefreely, even cheerfully than melancholy.
Nicolai Gedda also remains - unexpected for me - on the outside of a random tenor song. The voice is excellent, but his loudness ignores completely Raoul's regretful dream.
A special case is the live-performance of the Peruvian singer Juan Diego Florez.
Florez exudes - with guitar accompaniment of himself - a breathless-sensitive, Latin atmosphere, which makes melancholy and dreamy. But, at the end he tears with a sudden and shrill high fortississimo dream and song entirely out of the frame...
Krijn de Lege, 8.8.2018