Victor Herberts music including his well-known and rousing March
of the Toys graced the 1934 Laurel and Hardy classic Babes in
Toyland which was greeted by Variety thus: "It is amusing enough to entertain
older persons who remember when they were young." The original stage production
of Babes in Toyland was written, in 1904, towards the end of
Herberts tenure as conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Victor Herbert was born in Dublin, moved to Germany and after marrying a
singer at the Stuttgart opera, moved with her to America so that she could
pursue her career with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York. His own
career blossomed in consequence. Victor Herbert, cellist, composer and conductor
played an important part in the development of music in the United States.
The popular extravaganzas Babes in Toyland and The Red Mill
belong to the world of operetta, and are examples of forty such works. (He
also composed two operas and two Cello Concertos etc.)
The title Babes in Toyland might infer that its music is twee or fey.
It isnt. It is full of period charm and contains many delightful numbers:
waltzes, gavottes and marches that combine the best of both French and Viennese
operettas. Played here for the first time is the 15 minute Prelude that had
to be dropped from performances because of its magnitude. The music is witty
and dramatic in that it includes sinister and darker elements in its portrayal
of the childrens wicked Uncle Barnaby and the storm at sea and shipwreck.
(The latter material has some subtle melodramatic/pantomime overtones appropriate
to the spirit of the production). The Red Mill (the name of an inn
which appears to have some ghostly associations) is a more modern score and
one can see that Herbert is moving the genre forward by introducing a lot
of syncopation into his music.
The Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra which consists of the cream of the Naxos
and Marco Polo Czech recording orchestras enter into the spirit of the music
and give energetic and vivacious readings under the experienced baton of
Keith Brion who is director of his own Victor Herbert Orchestra and New Sousa
Band. Great fun