Paul Abraham

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Paul Abraham

Paul Abraham , also Ábrahám Pál (born November 2, 1892 in Apatin , Kingdom of Hungary , Austria-Hungary , † May 6, 1960 in Hamburg ), was a Hungarian- German composer . He mainly wrote operettas .


Abraham was born in the Danube Swabian, German-speaking community of Apatin (then Hungary) as the son of the Jewish merchant Jakab Abraham and his wife Flora Blau (Ábrahám Jakab, Blau Florá). In Budapest he studied composition with Victor von Herzfeld at the Royal Hungarian Music Academy (from 1913 to 1917). During his studies, he wrote his first compositions, which were performed in the large music hall of the academy. It was a Hungarian serenade, a cello concerto and a string quartet (all 1915). As he later said himself, “daring banking transactions” brought him to prison in early 1924 as a bankrupt. The sentence is unknown. Abraham then worked as an employee and also conducted small ensembles in cafes and jazz cellars. In 1927 Abraham became Kapellmeister at the Budapest Capital Operetta Theater , where he subsequently caused a sensation with four songs for the operetta Zenebona . The Fraulein's husband was his first own musical theater piece. In 1930 the operetta Viktória was successfully premiered in Budapest . At the same time he became known in Germany with a song from Der Gatte des Fräuleins . Paul Abraham contributed this to the first UFA sound film Melody of the Heart . Under the title I'm not a captain, I'm not a big animal , the composition, sung by Willy Fritsch , became a huge record success.

With the expansion of his popularity in Germany, he moved to Berlin. There he became the most sought-after composer of his time in the early 1930s . With the revised operetta Viktória (under the new name Viktoria und ihr Husar ), the Flower of Hawaii and the Ball in the Savoy , he created the most successful musical stage pieces in all of Europe together with the librettists Alfred Grünwald and Fritz Löhner-Beda . Through his modern compositions, in which he combined traditional elements with jazzy rhythms, he was considered to be the innovator and savior of the somewhat outdated genre of operetta. At the same time he contributed the music to numerous films from productions in Germany and other European countries.

1933 this altitude flight ended abruptly by the seizure of power by the National Socialists. Abraham had to go back to Budapest, his music was considered "degenerate" and was forgotten in Germany. In Vienna in the 1930s he was still able to bring out the operettas Märchen im Grandhotel , Dschainah and Roxy and their miracle team , then he had to leave Budapest due to the fascist activities that had also reached Hungary. He fled to Paris without his wife. In 1940 he came to New York via Cuba , but was unable to gain a foothold. In the "motherland of jazz" nobody was interested in his compositions. A new creative activity was also prevented by a fatal illness. In 1946 he was mentally driving traffic on Madison Avenue and also caused a stir with other flare-ups of insanity. He came to syphilitic meningoencephalitis ill, initially to the Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, and from there into the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center on Long Iceland .

Gravestone of Paul Abraham

In 1956 the composer returned to Germany - after the Federal Republic of Germany had clarified the question of the departure of the Hungarian citizen with the USA - on the initiative of a Paul Abraham Committee in Hamburg, which was largely founded by Walter Anatole Persich . He was initially treated in the psychiatry of the Hamburg-Eppendorf University Clinic . He then lived with his wife, who had since left the People's Republic of Hungary, for almost four years . In 1960 he died of serious cancer and was buried in the Ohlsdorf cemetery. Until his death, Abraham was still convinced that he lived in New York and that he would soon be able to achieve another great compositional success.

Reconstruction of the original versions of the operettas

Paul Abraham's operettas have been experiencing a renaissance in Germany since 2013. As a result of a production of Ball im Savoy at the Komische Oper Berlin , which was arranged by the artistic director Barrie Kosky himself, Paul Abraham operettas are increasingly being staged on German stages, including the German premiere of the soccer operetta Roxy and in 2014 her team of wonders at the Dortmund Opera , which was followed by another production at the Augsburg Theater in 2017. The operetta Märchen im Grand-Hotel (premiered in 1934 in Vienna) was performed for the first time in Germany as a concert performance at the Komische Oper Berlin in 2017. This operetta was then staged for the first time in Germany at the State Theater in Mainz. Further complete productions followed in 2019 at the Hanover State Opera and at the Meiningen State Theater. In December 2019, the Komische Oper Berlin finally gave the German premiere of Dschainah, the girl from the dance house (first performance in Vienna in 1935) in a concert version.

The basis and prerequisite for this renaissance are the new, so-called “practical stage reconstructions” of the scores of the Abraham operettas by Henning Hagedorn and Matthias Grimminger. After the rediscovery of the original scores of a large part of the operettas, which were believed to be lost, Hagedorn and Grimminger worked together with the publishers Josef Weinberger and Musik und Bühne to develop sheet music with the aim of reliving the sound and performance experience typical of the time the operettas were made using the resources of today's theater orchestra close.

Biographical work

In recent years, new interest has also arisen in Abraham's changeable life. In 2008, János Darvas created a one-hour TV documentary about Paul Abraham for the Franco-German broadcaster Arte under the title Bin nur ein Jonny . In 2014, the publicist Klaus Waller presented the composer's first international biography: Paul Abraham. The tragic king of the operetta . And in 2015 the Kammerspiele Hamburg, in cooperation with the Kammerspiele Magdeburg, brought out the biographical play Abraham by Dirk Heidecke, which has since been performed in many cities and continues to tour with Jörg Schüttauf in the title role. In 2019 the Small Theater in Bad Godesberg also staged this biographical two-person play.

Works (selection)

  • Zenebona , operetta in 3 acts (together with other composers). First performance March 2, 1928 Budapest, Fővárosi Operettszínház . Libretto: László Lakatos, István Bródy.
  • Az utolsó Verebély lány , operetta in 3 acts. (The last Verebély girl). Libretto: Imre Harmath, Gábor Drégel. First performance October 13, 1928 (also ud title Az elsö Verebély lány ).
    • Der Fräuleins ' husband , German version of Az utolsó Verebély lány by Arthur Rebner and Rudolf Lothar. First performance September 24, 1930, Leipzig.
  • Szeretem a felségem (I love my wife). Libretto: André Birabeau, Georges Dolley (based on: Stella Adorján). First performance June 15, 1929 Budapest, Magyar Színház.
  • Viktória , operetta in 3 acts and a prelude. First performance February 21, 1930 Budapest, Metropolitan Operetta Theater. Libretto: Imre Földes , Imre Harmath.
  • The flower of Hawaii , operetta in 3 acts. First performance July 24, 1931 Leipzig, Neues Theater. Libretto: Alfred Grünwald and Fritz Löhner-Beda, based on Imre Földes.
  • Ball in the Savoy , operetta in 3 acts and a prelude. First performance December 23, 1932 Berlin, Großes Schauspielhaus . Libretto: Alfred Grünwald and Fritz Löhner-Beda.
    • Ball At The Savoy , English version of Ball at the Savoy . First performed September 8, 1933 London, Drury Lane Theater .
  • Fairy tales in the Grand Hotel , comedy operetta in 3 acts. First performance March 29, 1934 Vienna, Theater an der Wien . Libretto: Alfred Grünwald and Fritz Löhner-Beda.
  • Viki , musical comedy in 3 acts. Libretto: Imre Harmath, Bónyi Adorján. First performance January 26, 1935 Budapest, Magyar Színház.
  • Történnek még csodák (Miracles still happen), musical comedy in 3 acts. Libretto: Imre Harmath, István Békeffy . First performance April 20, 1935 Budapest, Magyar Színház.
  • Dschainah, the girl from the dance house , operetta in 3 acts. First performance December 21, 1935 Vienna, Theater an der Wien. Libretto: Alfred Grünwald and Fritz Löhner-Beda (commissioned by Julius Meinl II for his wife Michiko Meinl )
  • 3: 1 a szerelem javára , operetta in 2 acts. Libretto: Imre Harmath, Dezső Kellér, László Szilágyi. First performance December 18, 1936 Budapest, Király Színház .
    • Roxy and her wonder team (musical football swank), German version of 3: 1 a szerelem javára (by Hans Weigel and Alfred Grünwald). First performance in the presence of the Austrian national soccer team on March 25, 1937, Theater an der Wien.
  • Julia , operetta in 2 parts and an episode. Libretto: Imre Földes, Imre Harmath. World premiere December 23, 1937 Budapest, Városi Színház; German version by Georg Kövary .
  • A Fehér hattyú (The White Swan), operetta in 3 acts. Libretto: Imre Földes, Imre Harmath. First performance December 23, 1938 Budapest, Városi Színház.
  • Tambourine , musical in 2 parts (never performed). Libretto: Alfred Grünwald.
  • Winter melody , musical in 2 parts by Henryk Roberts (based on: Ladislaus Fodor's "Lullaby"). Musical arrangement and lyrics: Günther Leopold (pasticcio with melodies from “Zenebona”, “The Fraulein's husband” and “Miracles still happen”). World premiere February 18, 1978 Salzburg Landestheater .
  • Abraham , two-person piece by Dirk Heidicke with music by Paul Abraham. World premiere in 2015 in Magdeburg and Hamburg.

Film adaptations


  • Melody of the Heart , D 1929
  • The Singing City, D / GB 1930
  • The private secretary , D 1931. English version : Sunshine Susie / The Office Girl, GB 1931, French version: Dactylo, F 1931
  • A little love for you (two happy hearts), D 1932. French version: Monsieur, Madame et Bibi, F 1932
  • Gypsies of the Night, D 1932
  • Coeurs joyeux, F 1932
  • Glück über Nacht, D 1932
  • Yes, Mister Brown, D 1932
  • The blue of the sky, D 1932
  • Rakoczy-Marasch (Rákóczi induló), D / A / HU 1933
  • Dactylo se marie (continuation of Dactylo), F 1934
  • Lila akác, HU 1934
  • Antonia, romance hongroise, F1935
  • Boards that mean the world , A 1935
  • Beloved's diary , A 1935
  • Családi pótlék, HU 1936
  • Mai lányok, HU 1936
  • Hotel Kikelet, HU 1937
  • Pesti mese, HU 1937
  • Viki, HU 1937
  • The kidnapped bride, A 1938
  • Úri világ, HU 1938
  • Serenade (Sérénade) , F 1940
  • It happened in Odessa, USA 1943
  • Holiday in Mexico, USA 1943/1946



Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Corrections to the book 'Paul Abraham. The tragic king of the operetta ' on the website
  2. There is also an official entry in Abraham's marriage certificate with the place of birth Zombor (Hungarian civil status register 1895-1980 / Pest-Pilis-Solt-Kis-Kun / Budapest (5th district), 1930, Heiraten (jan), page 129, available online at familysearch ). However, this is demonstrably wrong, because no birth of Abraham is entered in the Jewish birth register Zombor from November / December 1892 (entry 115-119)
  3. a b Klaus Waller: Paul Abraham. The tragic king of the operetta . Norderstedt 2014
  4. Nicole Restle: Dancing on the Abyss, in: Program booklet Münchner Rundfunkorchester Live concert Paul Abraham on the 50th anniversary of his death, December 1, 2010.
  5. ^ Report in the newspaper Világ, Budapest, of February 2, 1924, page 8
  6. Stefan Frey:  Paul Abraham in the Lexicon of Persecuted Musicians of the Nazi Era (LexM), as of July 19, 2018
  7. ^ Otto Schneidereit: Operetta A – Z. Henschelverlag Art and Society Berlin 1983, p. 11ff.
  8. Historical performance practice in the operetta. In: Retrieved March 28, 2016 .
  9. Jazzy, wicked attitude towards life in Berlin. In: Retrieved March 28, 2016 .
  10. The audience is racing - the critics rave about it. Info on Paul Abraham's operettas. Musik und Bühne Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, accessed on January 14, 2018 .
  11. "Practical stage reconstruction" - What is it actually? - The opera house blog. In: Retrieved March 28, 2016 .
  12. Angela Eder: I'd rather be among the four in Hollywood than among the forty thousand at the cemetery. Paul Ábraháms soccer perette Roxy and her wonder team, p. 6f. Accessed June 23, 2008