Franz Lehár

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Franz Lehár

Franz Lehár (born April 30, 1870 in Komorn , Austria-Hungary (today: Komárno , Slovakia ), † October 24, 1948 in Bad Ischl , Austria ) was an Austrian composer of Hungarian origin. Lehár, together with Oscar Straus , Emmerich Kálmán and Leo Fall, is considered to be the founder of the so-called silver operetta era .


Franz Lehár was the son of the Kapellmeister in Infantry Regiment No. 50 of the Austro-Hungarian Army Franz Lehár (senior) (1838–1898) and his wife Christine Neubrandt (1849–1906). Like his father, his brother Anton embarked on a military career which he ended as a general and knight of the Military Order of Maria Theresa .


Lehár's ancestors can be traced back to the beginning of the 18th century as small farmers in Lesnitz and Brünnles near Hohenstadt in northern Moravia. The name Lehar indicates the family's Czech origins, although the name became German after the composer's great-grandfather married a farmer's daughter from Schönwald (Šumvald) near Mährisch Neustadt . Their son lived in Schönwald as a cottage worker and glazier and married Anna Polách, who came from Schönwald, and her son Franz Lehár (senior) (born January 31, 1838 in Schönwald; † February 7, 1898 in Budapest) then became the composer's father. Lehár senior married the Hungarian Christine Neubrandt (1849–1906) in Komorn, whose father was descended from already Magyarized Mecklenburg immigrants, who were still called "Neubrandenburg" in old baptismal registers. “When the mother got married in 1869, she could hardly express herself in the German language, which her parents still knew perfectly. My father, on the other hand, hardly spoke Hungarian at all. Since only German was spoken in the army at that time, but Hungarian society [...] did not like to see German-speaking elements, my mother was almost completely devoid of social intercourse in the first few years. "

Lehár grew up speaking his mother's language, Hungarian . He spent his youth as the son of a military bandmaster with frequent relocations in cities that were then part of Hungary: Pressburg , Ödenburg , Karlsburg and Klausenburg . That is why the “ a ” in the name Lehár received the Hungarian expansion symbol. (The Sudeten German branch , which was based in Liebau until 1945 , is written Lehar , the Czech name bearer Léhar .)

Lehár's signature

Franz Lehár acknowledged his Hungarian origins through his signature throughout his life, adding his baptismal name Ferenc (Franz) to the family name in the Hungarian way . Lehár abbreviated the word Ferenc mostly with a treble clef-like curlicue and kept this spelling even when he later signed with his German first name.

His military passport says: "... He is 1.65 meters tall, has blue eyes, blonde hair, speaks and writes German, Hungarian, Bohemian, is entitled to live in Schönwald / Moravia ..."

His language skills, which also made it possible to understand other Slavic languages ​​well, he later expanded to include colloquial Italian in Pola / Pula, where he worked as a military bandmaster. He was friends with Puccini and other Italian composers, people exchanged experiences and scores. However, his knowledge of English was very poor, although he was able to distinguish good translations of his operettas from bad ones. They were certainly too few for emigration to the USA or Great Britain.

In Ernst Décsey , Lehár's first biographer, the family legend is quoted, according to which the Lehars are said to have descended from a Marquis Le Harde . This marquis is said to have been captured by the Russians as a member of the Grande Armée , but escaped in northern Moravia and found shelter with peasants. However, there was no evidence of this tradition.


Franz Lehár with his mother Christine in 1875

Franz Lehár's talent was evident in playing the piano at an early age . Like Mozart , he was able to vary a theme with hidden keys as a child . At the age of eleven he composed his first song.

In 1880 his father was transferred to Budapest with his regiment , and Lehár attended the Piarist high school there. In order to give him a better knowledge of the German language, he soon went to the grammar school in Mährisch Sternberg .

From 1882 onwards Lehár became a student of the Prague Conservatory because of his great musicality and, in accordance with his father's wishes, studied violin with Anton Bennewitz, music theory with Josef Foerster and composition with Antonín Dvořák , after having previously been privately taught by Zdeněk Fibich . When Dvořák had seen two compositions by Lehár in 1887, he said: “Hang up your violin and compose instead.” Johannes Brahms “also expressed himself benevolently about me and gave me a recommendation card to Professor Mandyczewski .”


Lehár in his Vienna apartment, 1918

He began his musical career as an orchestral musician in Barmen and Elberfeld ( Stadttheater am Brausenwerth ). Then he became the youngest military bandmaster in the Austro-Hungarian Army . In Vienna he played in his father's band, and through various stations in the monarchy he worked his way up to his father's successor. This career took him to Pola , Trieste , Budapest and from 1899 to 1902 to Vienna . Vienna became his adopted home, and thanks to some great successes, he was soon able to live exclusively from his compositional work and devoted himself entirely to operetta .

With his two first works Wiener Frauen and Der Rastelbinder he was already considered the coming man of the operetta. With the worldwide success of The Merry Widow (1905), he finally took the lead among operetta composers of the time. Soon other successful pieces followed in the next few years: The Count of Luxembourg , Gypsy Love and Eva .

When the “old” operetta had to give way to the revue in the audience's favor in the 1920s (Lehár tried his hand at a revue version of The Merry Widow with Fritzi Massary ), Lehár also said goodbye to this cheerful art form. Since Paganini he has dispensed with the usual happy ending and relied on operatic sentiment and pathos. He wrote most of the tenor roles in these last operettas, such as The Land of Smiles and The Tsarevich , for Richard Tauber . His last operetta Giuditta , which he described as a "musical comedy", was actually premiered in 1934 at the Vienna State Opera. With this performance, which Lehár had longed for, the “House” promised itself a financial recovery.

In private he was very close friends with Giacomo Puccini and was also inspired by his operas (just as, conversely, Puccini was inspired by Lehár to write his operetta The Swallow , which, however, was not a success). Lehár composed four operas himself ("Rodrigo" as well as "Kukuschka" or "Tatjana" at the beginning of his career, later "The Yellow Jacket" and "Garbonciás", a reworking of "Gypsy Love", as the last stage work). In addition to operettas, he wrote two symphonic poems, two violin concertos, film music, songs, dances and marches.

Franz Lehár's grave in Bad Ischl

Over the years, Lehár acquired the Schikaneder-Schlössl in Vienna-Nussdorf , which Emanuel Schikaneder had already owned, in 1931 . He bequeathed his villa in Bad Ischl , where he liked to compose in summer, to the city on condition that it be turned into a Lehár museum. A Lehár fund was to be set up from the composer's share for performances of his works in Austria and the income from this fund was to be used to support elderly people in need through no fault of their own. However, no young talents should be promoted with the help of this fund, since, so Lehár wrote, true talent comes by itself and he does not wish that art dilettantism would be raised through it.

Lehár and the "Third Reich"

The seizure of power by the National Socialists in Germany also had a major impact on Lehár, since, as Rosenberg's office notes, “without exception, he had used Jewish textbook authors for his operettas: Leo Stein , Bela Jenbach , Bodanzky , Reichert , Julius Bauer , Julius Brammer , Alfred Grünwald , Herzer , Löhner-Beda , Marton, Willner ”and“ in Vienna exclusively in Jewish circles ”. An Aryan certificate had for himself and his wife by pointing out they were both Catholic, never provided Lehár. However, he was vulnerable to attack because of his Jewish wife Sophie (née Paschkis) and was only granted special permission to practice because of Hitler's special interest. The initial hostility towards him and his work, which emanated mainly from the Rosenberg office, fell silent thanks to Goebbels ' interventions , and his operettas were again tolerated on the repertoire of German theaters.

In 1938 Richard Tauber tried to persuade Lehár to emigrate, which he refused with the words: "To emigrate in the 69th year is not a pity." His poor knowledge of English would certainly have been a major handicap. Perhaps he also hoped that his Hungarian citizenship - which he opted for in 1919 - would leave him alone. For Hungary he was - and is - one of their greatest composers, and an arrest would certainly have led to energetic intervention by the Hungarian government. Hungary was an important ally of the German Reich and so it may well be possible that people deliberately kept quiet here.

In 1938, Lehár's wife was declared an "honorary Aryan" . In the same year Lehár denounced the Jewish lawyer Eitelberg to the State Councilor and SS-Sturmbannführer Hans Hinkel , who was Lehár's patron in the Reich Propaganda Ministry. At the beginning of January 1945 he received a hearty Heil-Hitler from Hinkel ! -New year's greeting. On January 12, 1939 and April 30, 1940, Lehár received awards from Hitler in Berlin and Vienna, including a Goethe medal . On Hitler's birthday in 1938, Lehár gave his famous admirer a ribbon tied in red Moroccan leather to commemorate the 50th performance of The Merry Widow . In 1941 he made himself available for propaganda concerts in occupied Paris. At the end of 1942 he was in Budapest to prepare the performance of his old gypsy love - in a wisely completely “Aryanized” text version. Nonetheless, an attempt was made to deport Lehár's wife once.

Lehár's friend, the librettist Fritz Löhner-Beda, was murdered on December 4, 1942 in the Auschwitz concentration camp . In the literature there is the unsubstantiated claim that Lehár tried unsuccessfully to get Löhner's release through a personal interview with Hitler. On the contrary, recent research showed that Lehár did nothing and, after the end of the Second World War, affirmed that he did not know anything.

After a breakdown while conducting in Budapest, Lehár was allowed to travel to Switzerland with his wife in 1943. At this time he had been suffering from gallbladder, kidney, glandular and eye problems as well as pneumonia for a long time.

The couple spent the last months of the war in Bad Ischl again.

After the end of the Second World War, Lehár refused to talk about the political dimensions of his work in the Third Reich, for example at a meeting with Klaus Mann in May 1945.

Old age and death

After the war, Lehár stayed in Switzerland for medical treatment. In June 1948 the composer returned to Bad Ischl with his sister Emilie Christine, who looked after him after his wife's death. He received honorary citizenship in October 1948 and died shortly afterwards. His grave is in the cemetery in Bad Ischl .


25 shilling coin (1970)
Renaming of the former spa theater in Bad Ischl (now cinema) to "Lehár Filmtheater"



Stage works

  • Rodrigo , opera in one prelude and one act. Libretto : Rudolf Mlčoch. Premiere 1893 Losoncz (military casino)
  • Kukuška , lyric drama in three acts. Libretto: Felix Falzari . Premiere November 27, 1896 Leipzig (City Theater)
    • New version: Tatjana . Opera in three acts (four pictures). Libretto: Felix Falzari and Max Kalbeck . Premiere February 10, 1905 Brno (City Theater)
  • Viennese women ( the piano teacher ; the piano tuner ). Operetta in three acts. Libretto: Hans Bergler (pseud. Ottokar Tann-Bergler ) and Emil Norini . Premiere November 21, 1902 Vienna ( Theater an der Wien )
    • Recast: The Key to Paradise . Operetta in three acts by Emil Norini and Julius Horst. EA October 20, 1906 Leipzig (New Operetta Theater)
  • The Rastel binder . Operetta in one prelude and two acts. Libretto: Victor Léon . WP December 20, 1902 Vienna ( Carltheater )
  • The husband of the gods . Operetta in a scenic prologue and two pictures. Libretto: Victor Léon and Leo Stein . Premiere January 20, 1904 Vienna (Carltheater)
  • The joke marriage . Operetta in three acts. Libretto: Julius Bauer. Premiere December 21, 1904 Vienna (Theater an der Wien)
Title page of a piano reduction of the operetta "The Merry Widow"
  • The Merry Widow , operetta in three acts. Libretto: Victor Léon and Leo Stein. Premiere December 30, 1905 Vienna (Theater an der Wien)
  • Peter and Paul travel to the land of milk and honey . Operetta for children in one prelude and five pictures. Libretto: Fritz Grünbaum and Robert Bodanzky . Premiere December 1, 1906 Vienna (Hell cabaret in the Theater an der Wien)
  • Mitislav of modernity . Operetta in one act (parody of The Merry Widow ). Libretto: Fritz Grünbaum and Robert Bodanzky. Premiere 7 January 1907 Vienna (Hell cabaret in the Theater an der Wien)
  • The man with the three women . Operetta in three acts. Libretto: Julius Bauer. Premiere January 21, 1908 Vienna (Theater an der Wien)
  • The princely child . Operetta in one prelude and two acts. Libretto: Victor Léon. Premiere October 7, 1909 Vienna ( Johann Strauss Theater )
    • New version: The Prince of the Mountains . Libretto: Victor Léon. Premiere September 22, 1932 Berlin (Theater am Nollendorfplatz)
  • The Count of Luxembourg . Operetta in three acts. Libretto: Alfred Maria Willner and Robert Bodanzky (based on the libretto of the operetta Reiche Mädchen, which in turn is a new version of the operetta Die Göttin der Vernunft by Johann Strauss .) Premiere November 12, 1909 Vienna (Theater an der Wien)
  • Gypsy love . Romantic operetta in three pictures. Libretto: Alfred Maria Willner and Robert Bodanzky. Premiere January 8, 1910 Vienna (Carltheater)
    • New version: Garabonciás diák . Romantic Singspiel in three acts. Libretto: Vincze Ernő Innocent. Premiere February 20, 1943 Budapest ( Royal Opera )
  • Eve . Operetta in three acts. Libretto: Alfred Maria Willner and Robert Bodanzky. November 24, 1911 Vienna (Theater an der Wien)
  • Rosenstock and Edelweiss . Singspiel in one act. Libretto: Julius Bauer. Premiere December 20, 1912 Vienna (Hell cabaret in the Theater an der Wien)
  • Alone at last . Operetta. Libretto: Alfred Maria Willner and Robert Bodanzky. Premiere January 30, 1914 Vienna (Theater an der Wien)
  • The stargazer . Operetta. Libretto: Fritz Löhner-Beda. Premiere January 14, 1916 Vienna ( Theater in der Josefstadt )
    • New version: Dragonfly Dance ( The Three Graces ). Operetta. Libretto: Alfred Maria Willner. Premiere March 30, 1923 Vienna (City Theater)
    • Italian version: La danza delle libellule . Operetta in three acts. Libretto: Carlo Lombardo. Premiere September 27, 1922 Milan (Teatro Lirico)
    • New version: Gigolette . Operetta. Libretto: Carlo Lombardo and Giovacchino Forzano . Premiere 1926 Vienna (City Theater)
  • Where the lark sings . Operetta in four pictures. Libretto: Alfred Maria Willner, Heinz Reichert based on a design by Ferenc Martos. WP (Hungarian version: A Pacsirta ) February 1, 1918 Budapest (Royal Opera). German-language premiere March 27, 1918 Vienna (Theater an der Wien)
  • The blue mazur . Operetta in two acts and an interlude. Libretto: Leo Stein and Bela Jenbach . Premiere May 28, 1920 Vienna (Theater an der Wien)
  • Spring . Singspiel in one act. Libretto: Rudolf Eger. Premiere January 22, 1922 Vienna (Hell cabaret in the Theater an der Wien)
    • New version: spring girl . Libretto: Rudolf Eger. Premiere May 29, 1928 Berlin (Neues Theater am Zoo)
  • Frasquita . Operetta in three acts. Libretto: Alfred Maria Willner and Heinz Reichert. Premiere May 12, 1922 Vienna (Theater an der Wien)
    • New version: Komische Oper. Libretto: Adaptation française de Max Eddy et Jean Marietti. Premiere May 5, 1933 Paris ( Opéra-Comique )
  • The yellow jacket . Weird opera. Libretto: Victor Léon. Premiere February 9, 1923 Vienna (Theater an der Wien)
    • New version: The land of smiles . Romantic operetta in three acts. Libretto: Ludwig Herzer and Fritz Löhner-Beda. Premiere October 10, 1929 Berlin (Metropol Theater)
  • Clo-Clo (later Lolotte ). Operetta in three acts. Libretto: Bela Jenbach . Premiere March 8, 1924 Vienna ( Citizens' Theater )
  • Paganini . Operetta in three acts. Libretto: Paul Knepler and Béla Jenbach. Premiere October 30, 1925 Vienna (Johann Strauss Theater)
  • The tsarevich . Operetta in three acts. Libretto: Béla Jenbach and Heinz Reichert. Premiere February 21, 1927 Berlin ( German Art Theater )
  • Friederike . Singspiel in three acts. Libretto: Ludwig Herzer and Fritz Löhner-Beda. Premiere October 4, 1928 Berlin (Metropol Theater)
Performance of Giuditta at the Seefestspiele in Mörbisch 2003

Vocal works

  • Karst songs . Texts: Felix Falzari
    1. Fateful premonition - 2. Fulfillment - 3. What sweeps my eyes ... - 4.  I squeeze your dear hand ... - 5.  The flowers smell ... - 6.  My dream castle - Sunken ... - 7.  Enchanted ...
  • Love passed by . Texts: Otto Eisenschitz (1863–1942)
    1. I was his girl - 2. The first time - 3. At the brook in the grass
  • Fever . Tone poem for voice and orchestra (1915). Text: Erwin Weill

Instrumental works

Opus 79, sheet music title
  • Piano sonatas in F major and D minor
  • Fantasy for piano (1887–8)
  • Concertino for violin and orchestra (1888)
  • Il Guado . Symphonic poem for piano and orchestra (1894)
  • Gold und Silber op.79.Waltz for orchestra (1902)
  • A vision. My youth . Overture for orchestra (1907)
  • On the gray Danube . Waltz for orchestra (1921)
  • Hungarian Fantasy op.45 for violin and orchestra (1935)


Literature on Franz Lehár

  • Ernst Décsey : Franz Lehár. Three masks, Vienna 1924, 1930.
  • Anton Freiherr von Lehár: Our mother. Viennese Bohème, Vienna / Berlin 1930.
  • Stan Czech: Franz Lehár. His life and his work. Karl Siegismund, Berlin 1940.
  • Stan Czech: Franz Lehár. His way and his work. Perneder, Vienna 1948.
  • Maria von Peteani: Franz Lehár. His music - his life. Bells, Vienna / London 1950.
  • Stan Czech: The world is beautiful. Franz Lehár's life and work. Argon, Berlin 1957.
  • Bernard Grun: Gold and Silver. Franz Lehár and his world. Langen Müller, Munich / Vienna 1970.
  • Max Schönherr : Franz Lehár. Bibliography on life and work. Contributions to a Lehár biography. Vienna 1970.
  • Otto Schneidereit (edited by Sabine Tuch and Dirk-Joachim Glävke): Franz Lehár. A biography in quotations. Lied der Zeit Musikverlag, Berlin 1984.
  • Ingrid Haffner, Herbert Haffner: Always smile ... The Franz Lehár book. Parthas, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-932529-24-3 .
  • Franz Endler: Always smile ... Franz Lehár, his life - his work. Heyne, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-453-13886-4 .
  • Stefan Frey ; Franz Lehár or the guilty conscience of light music Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 1995.
  • Stefan Frey ; What do you think of this success? Franz Lehár and the popular music of the 20th century. Insel, Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 1999, ISBN 3-458-16960-1 .
  • Norbert Linke : Franz Lehár. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3-499-50427-8 .
  • Paul Melchior, Franz Lehár musical , Pascal Maurice éditeur, Paris, 2012, ISBN 978-2-908681-27-7 (in French, German and English)

Lexica entries

Other literature

  • Anton Bauer: Operas and Operettas in Vienna. Böhlau, Vienna 1955.
  • Quirin Engasser (ed.): Great men of world history. 1000 biographies in words and pictures. Neuer Kaiser Verlag, Klagenfurt 1987, ISBN 3-7043-3065-5 , p. 264.
  • Fred K. Prieberg : Handbook of German Musicians 1933-1945. CD-ROM lexicon. Self-published, Kiel 2004.
  • Lehár Museum Bad Ischl. Edited by the municipality of Bad Ischl. Salzkammergut printing works, Gmunden o. J.

Web links

Commons : Franz Lehár  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Lehár, family in the Oesterreichischen Musiklexikon online, accessed on August 6, 2018.
  2. ^ Anton Freiherr von Lehár: Our mother . Wiener Bohème, Vienna / Berlin 1930, p. 13.
  3. ^ Franz Lehár: My career . In: Die Zeit , October 13, 1907.
  4. ^ Franz Lehár: From the desk and from the studio. Until the Merry Widow. Autobiography by Franz Lehár. In: Velhagen & Klasing ´s monthly books . Bielefeld / Leipzig 1912.
  5. Information from the cultural policy archive in the Office for Cultural Maintenance . Berlin January 9, 1935; quoted from Stefan Frey: What do you think of this success? Franz Lehár and the popular music of the 20th century . Insel, Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 1999, ISBN 3-458-16960-1 , p. 305 f .; Fred K. Prieberg: Handbook of German Musicians 1933-1945 . CD-ROM lexicon. Self-published, Kiel 2004, p. 4166.
  6. ^ Fred K. Prieberg: Handbook of German Musicians 1933–1945 . CD-ROM lexicon. Self-published, Kiel 2004, p. 4165.
  7. Elke Froehlich (ed.): The diaries of Joseph Goebbels. Part I Records 1923–1945 Volume Dec 5, 1937 - July 1938 . KG Saur, Munich 2000, p. 313.
  8. ^ Norbert Linke, Franz Lehár , p. 117.
  9. Stefan Frey: What do you think of this success? Franz Lehár and the popular music of the 20th century . Insel, Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 1999, ISBN 3-458-16960-1 , p. 338 f.
  10. Günther Schwarberg : Yours is my whole heart. The story of Fritz Löhner-Beda, who wrote the most beautiful songs in the world, and why Hitler had him murdered . Steidl, Göttingen 2000, pp. 128 and 130.
  11. Günther Schwarberg: Yours is my whole heart . Steidl, Göttingen 2000, p. 131.
  12. Günther Schwarberg: Yours is my whole heart . Steidl, Göttingen 2000, pp. 128 and 157.
  13. Stefan Frey: What do you think of this success? Franz Lehár and the popular music of the 20th century . Insel, Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 1999, ISBN 3-458-16960-1 , p. 326.
  14. Günther Schwarberg: Yours is my whole heart . Steidl, Göttingen 2000, p. 173
  15. ^ Bernard Grun: Gold and Silver. Franz Lehár and his world . Langen Müller, Munich / Vienna 1970, p. 291.
  16. see also William Hastings Burke: Hermann's brother: Who was Albert Göring? (German translation). Structure, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-351-02747-6
  17. see also Norbert Linke: Franz Lehár , p. 118.
  18. ^ Peter Herz : The case of Franz Lehár. An authentic presentation by Peter Herz . In: The community of April 24, 1968.
  19. Günther Schwarberg: Yours is my whole heart . Steidl, Göttingen 2000, p. 125.
  20. ^ Fritz Löhner-Beda on the Wollheim Memorial .
  21. Günther Schwarberg: Yours is my whole heart . Steidl, Göttingen 2000, p. 183. Schwarberg devotes an entire section to Lehár (pages 123 to 132). He mentions a meeting between Lehár and Hitler in 1936 on p. 72.
  22. a b Vienna's street names since 1860 as “Political Places of Remembrance” (PDF; 4.4 MB), p. 153 ff., Final research project report, Vienna, July 2013.
  23. Franz Lehár:  I almost became an opera composer! How my "Tatjana" came about .. In:  Neues Wiener Journal , December 14, 1937, p. 10 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nwj