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
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