The term "operetta" derives from French, German, and Italian sources, but in common usage it suggests a small or light opera. In America, operetta gained popularity when Jacques Offenbach's opéra bouffe works first appeared in the 1860s and, in part, through the popularity of the English operettas of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, beginning with a highly successful New York run of The Pirates of Penzance in 1879. American operetta emerged in the same period, with the triumph of The Black Crook (1866), which is also referred to as the first musical. Erminie (1886), with music by Edward Jakobowski, scored a great success, playing over 1,250 performances, after which many operettas filled American stages well into the 20th century. A number of touring companies gave Americans everywhere an appetite for operetta. Best of all were the Bostonians, led by Henry C. Barnabee. The Bostonians' greatest success, Robin Hood (1891), was also the finest work by composer Reginald De Koven (1859-1920), in collaboration with his frequent librettist Harry B. Smith (1860-1936), who also created The Fencing Master (1892), The Knickerbockers (1893), The Algerian (1893), Rob Roy (1894), The Tzigane (1895), The Mandarin (1896), The Highwayman (1897), Maid Marian (1902), and The Jersey Lily (1903), among many others. Other popular touring companies were the Whitney Opera Company, McCaull's Opera Company, and the Salsbury Troubadours.
   "March King" John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) wrote operettas, including El Capitân (1896). Victor Herbert (1859-1924) became the predominant composer of operettas when his more cohesive scores in support of each work's libretto elevated the form. For Alice Nielsen, Herbert wrote The Fortune Teller (1899) and The Singing Girl (1900). Others by Herbert include Babes in Toyland (1903), Mlle. Modiste (1905), The Red Mill (1906), Naughty Marietta (1910), The Enchantress (1911), The Lady of the Slipper (1912), Sweethearts (1913), The Madcap Duchess (1913), The Princess Pat (1915), and Eileen (1917). Other operettas found popularity before the gradual decline of the genre from the World War I years: The Whirl of the Town (1897; music by Gustave Kerker) and The Prince of Pilsen (1903; music by Gustav Luders, lyrics by Frank Pixley).
   Rudolf Friml (1879-1972) composed The Firefly (1912), Rose Marie (1924), The Vagabond King (1925), The Three Musketeers (1928), and Luana (1930). Key elements of operetta fueled developments in musical theatre, and thus in the same era, Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951) walked the line between operetta and musical comedy. Among his Broadway musicals, Romberg wrote several vehicles for Al Jolson, including Dancing Around (1914) and Sinbad (1918), but made his lasting mark with the operettas Maytime (1917), Blossom Time (1921), The Rose of Stamboul (1922), The Student Prince (1924), Princess Flavia (1925), The Desert Song (1926), Rosalie (1928), The New Moon (1928), and Up in Central Park (1945). Usually claimed by musical theatre, Show Boat (1927), by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II,* contains elements of operetta. Among the many notable American performers of operetta, standouts include Lillian Russell, De Wolfe Hopper, Marie Dressler, and Fritzi Scheff. Operetta survived during the 1930s mostly through lavish motion picture versions of works by Herbert, Friml, and Romberg, many starring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, and a brief revival in the 1950s starring Ann Blyth, Gordon MacRae, and others.
   See also music.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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  • operetta — /ope ret:a/ s.f. [dim. di opera ]. (mus.) [genere di teatro musicale di carattere leggero e sentimentale, in cui si alternano canto, dialoghi, danza e scene corali] ▶◀ ‖ opera (lirica), vaudeville, zarzuela. ▲ Locuz. prep.: fig., da operetta… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • operetta — light opera, 1775, from It. operetta, dim. of OPERA (Cf. opera) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Operetta — Op er*et ta, n. [It., dim. of opera.] (Mus.) A short, light, musical drama. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • operetta — ит. [опэрэ/тта], англ. [опэрэ/тэ] opérette фр. [опэрэ/т] Operette нем. [опэрэ/тэ] оперетта …   Словарь иностранных музыкальных терминов

  • operetta — ► NOUN ▪ a short opera on a light or humorous theme. ORIGIN Italian, little opera …   English terms dictionary

  • operetta — [äp΄ə ret′ə] n. [It, dim. of opera,OPERA1] a light, amusing opera with spoken dialogue …   English World dictionary

  • Operetta — The audience at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, the birthplace of Offenbach s operettas (1860) Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English language works, to forms …   Wikipedia

  • operetta — operettist, n. /op euh ret euh/, n. a short opera, usually of a light and amusing character. [1760 70; < It, dim. of opera OPERA1] * * * Musical drama similar to opera, usually with a romantically sentimental plot, employing songs, dances, and… …   Universalium

  • Operetta —    A diverting form of musical entertainment still closely associated with Vienna, operettas are frequently performed in quarters such as the “People’s Opera” (Volksoper). Their composers were some of the most famous names in the history of… …   Historical dictionary of Austria

  • operetta — o·pe·rét·ta s.f. 1. dim. → opera 2. TS mus. genere di teatro musicale, di argomento leggero, nato nella seconda metà dell 800, in cui brani cantati si alternano a danze e a scene interamente recitate: un operetta di J. Strauss, assistere, andare… …   Dizionario italiano

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