Dr. Casey J. Hayes
Im weißen Rößl
Camilla Spira played Josefa Vogelhuber, the landlady of the Zum weissen Rössl, whose amorous sights are, much to the distress of her adoring head-waiter, Leopold (Max Hansen), set on the handsome city lawyer Otto Siedler (Walter Jankuhn). When Siedler comes to stay at the hotel, Josefa does everything to make his stay comfortable, but Leopold does just the opposite, and ends up getting himself sacked. However, Siedler is unaware of Josefa's attachment and he is soon sighing behind the cowshed with Ottilie (Trude Lieske), the daughter of the belligerent ladies' underwear manufacturer, Giesecke (Otto Wallburg). A commercial marriage has been proposed between Ottilie and Sigismund (Sig Arno), the son of Giesecke's business competitor, but in the end bald and beautiful Sigismund falls for little, stuttering Klärchen, Siedler gets his Ottilie, and, after some homespun truth from the lips of no less a guest than the Emperor Franz Josef (Paul Hörbiger) himself, Josefa sees the sense in marrying the adoring Leopold. The musical realigned the emphasis of the piece towards the Josefa/Leopold relationship rather than, as originally, towards Giesecke and his commercial and family problems, and Leopold, a rôle built in the good, old Girardi mould, became the principal comic character of the piece. There was also a small stand-out comic rôle for a little hotel busboy -- something of a mini Hans Moser part -- in which Gustl Stark Gstettenbauer pulled the notices in the original production.
The score was a friendly, catchy one, from its yodelling overture and a buzzing opening, with Leopold organizing crowds of tourists in and out of the hotel, to its final waltzing happily-ever-after finale. Leopold serenaded his employer with `Es muss was Wunderbares sein' and stood his amorous ground, in the face of dismissal, in Granichstaedten's delightful `Zuschau'n kann i net', Josefa welcomed Siedler `Im weissen Rössl am Wolfgangsee' in waltz time and urged Giesecke into good temper with the thigh-slapping rhythms of `Im Salzkammergut'. Sigismund wondered over his unobvious (to everyone else) good looks in Gilbert's `Was kann der Sigismund dafür', the romantic pair wallowed in the tuneful sentimentality of Stolz's `Die ganze Welt ist himmelblau' and the waltzing `Mein Liebeslied muss ein Walzer sein', and the Emperor delivered rich philosophy in the Sprechgesang of `Es ist einmal in Leben so'.
The lavish production, designed by Ernst Stern to include anything and everything Salzkammerguttish that moved, included a boat, a train, a veritable arkful of live animals, a vast cast and real rain. All this, added to the charming music and the homely, countrified and familiar tale, made up a combination which was irresistible to Berliners of the Depression years (`Stern catches the gaiety of the country, and the Schuhplattler is a breath of fresh air after all that dreary revue dancing'), and Im weissen Rössl scored a huge success through a first run of more than 400 performances.
The Berlin production was still at its peak when the foreign versions of the show started to come thick and fast. The first of these was mounted in London, where Oswald Stoll imported Charell to stage an English adaptation of the show (ad Harry Graham, with plot variations) at the vast London Coliseum. Clifford Mollison (Leopold) and Vienna's Lea Seidl (Josefa) starred, with Bruce Carfax (here anglicized from Otto Siedler into Valentine Sutton) and Rita Page (now the daughter of an English north-country businessman) providing the romantic music, and comedian George Gee as Sigismund. The London version of White Horse Inn boosted the popular musical content of the show by adding another song for Mollison. Declaring that, having been sacked, he would go off and join the Foreign Legion, he delivered Graham's version of Robert Stolz's already familiar march song `Adieu, mein kleiner Gardeoffizier', borrowed from the film score Das Lied ist aus (1930). As `Goodbye' the new-old song scored, with the title song, the hit of the evening. Another Stolz number, `You Too' (`Auch du wirst mich einmal betrügen'), taken from the film score forZwei Herzen im Dreivierteltakt (1930), was also added, and Stolz's contribution, which had now mounted to four numbers, was judged sufficient by the British publishers of the show to give him a co-composer's credit with Benatzky. The picturesque lashings of Tyrolean scenery, largely reproduced from Stern's Berlin designs, the dancing and the yodelling, the happy score and the happy story proved equally as popular in London as in Berlin. The show remained in London just over a year and played 650 twice-daily performances in its king-sized home. It was revived at the same theatre during the war with Derek Oldham and Nita Croft (20 March 1940) in the lead rôles.
The London version and staging, with its great revolving stage and all, was subsequently produced in Australia. Popular primadonna Strella Wilson starred as Josefa and palliated the part's lack of music by introducing Ivor Novello's song `Lend Me a Dream'. Arthur Stigant (Giesecke), Charles Norman (Leopold) and Sydney Burchall (Valentine) supported, and the piece was, yet again, a vast hit, playing nearly four months in Sydney and four in Melbourne (Her Majesty's Theatre/King's Theatre 28 July 1934) before being sent out to tour Australia. The cast travelled by one train -- the revolve went on ahead on a second.
In Vienna the show was staged at the Stadttheater with Hubert Marischka and Paula Brosig in the leading rôles and Fritz Imhoff as Giesecke. The `Blue-Boys' jazz band was heavily featured, there was a `Wäschentanzer' scene, a `Schützenfest am Wolfgangsee', a scene on the Bad Ischl esplanade (how did we get there?) featuring a song called `Ischl' (Anton Paulik/Karl Farkas) and a `Quodlibet' by the same pair, and there was a second contribution from Granichstaedten (`Ich hab' es fünfzigmal geschworen') to swell the decidedly in-and-out score. Again -- in spite of some mumbles about the propriety of representing Franz Josef on the musical stage -- the show was a huge hit, which ended up alternating no fewer than three Josefas and two Emperors, and it returned two seasons later to pass its 700th Viennese performance during a week's stand at the Theater an der Wien. It has returned most recently at the Volksoper where it was remounted in 1993 (15 May) with Adolf Dallapozza as Leopold and Elisabeth Kales as Josepha.
Adorján Stella and Imre Harmath's Hungarian version also scored the show's now habitual fine success when it was mounted at Budapest's Király Színház with Márton Rátkai (Giesecke), Emmi Kosáry (Ottilie), Erzi Pechy (Josefa), Jen*o* Nádor (Siedler), Dezs*o* Kertész (Leopold), Teri Féjes (Klärchen) and Gyula Kabos (Sigismund) featured, and Josef Jarno, longtime head of Vienna's Theater in der Josefstadt, stealing the show in the rôle of the Emperor.
Strangely enough, it was several years before White Horse Inn arrived in New York. When it did it was mounted at the enormous Center Theater (ad David Freeman, Irving Caesar) with Kitty Carlisle and William Gaxton starred, with Robert Halliday providing the romance, and with a bundle of the most un-Austrian numbers ever inserted into the ravaged score: Will Irwin and Norman Zeno's `In a Little Swiss Chalet' (Swiss????!),`White Souls', Jara Benes's `Leave it to Katarina' and the Irving Caesar/Gerald Marks/Sam Lerner/`I Would Love to Have You Love Me', as well as a different 'Goodbye' number credited to Eric Coates. It nevertheless pleased New York for 223 performances.
Meanwhile, however, the Paris production had given the show one of its most successful outings of all. As Stoll had done in London, the Isola Brothers imported Charell to supervise the staging of a version of his singular hit, on the rather less vast stage of the Théâtre Mogador (ad Lucien Besnard, René Dorin). Again, like Stoll, they used a version of Stern's designs, which had, like the show itself, been once again adapted. As far as the score was concerned, `Goodbye' had been retained from the London version, but `You Too' was replaced by a delicious duet `Je vous emmènerai dans mon joli bateau', a piece gallicized from a 1929 song, `Am Sonntag will mein Süsser mit mir segeln gehn', written by Robert Gilbert and composed by Anton Profès, which gave the score yet one more highlight. Several numbers from the original score, including Granichstaedten's lovely song, had, however, vanished. The comedians Milton (Léopold) and Charpin (Bistagne/Giesecke) and Gabrielle Ristori (Josepha) headed the cast, with André Goavec (Guy Florès/Siedler) and Rose Carday (Sylvabelle/Ottilie) as a pair of sweethearts here turned as French as the British production had made them British. Paris gave L'Auberge du Cheval Blanc its longest run of all, with a first series of over 700 performances, during which Helene Régelly and Lucien Dorval replaced the original stars, and France also proved to be the show's most appreciative foreign home thereafter.
L'Auberge du Cheval Blanc returned to Paris and the Mogador in 1935. It then migrated to the Châtelet under Maurice Lehmann, where Luc Barney famously took possession of the rôle of Leopold, which he played again in the 1948 and 1953 revivals. The show returned once more in 1960, and in 1968 the Châtelet presented a revised version (ad Marcel Lamy, Jean Valmy) which raked up and replaced in the show the bits of the German score that had got dropped on the way to the definitive French version. Granichstaedten's song went back in, along with a heurige song by Hans Frankowski which had become part of the German show in the meantime, and two `lost' Benatzky pieces. The Mogador repeated the show they had introduced nearly half a century earlier in 1979, and in 1987 the considerably smaller Eldorado mounted L'Auberge du Cheval Blanc, with the ageing Barney now playing Bistagne. Paris still welcomes the show into the 2000s.
In Vienna, Im weissen Rössl was re-introduced at the Volksoper in 1976 (1 March, w Christiane Hörbiger, Peter Minich), where its spectacular side was well catered for but, although Berlin's Im weissen Rössl was conceived as a spectacle, and owed much of its original success to its elaborate visual side, it has been often and successfully played, since its establishment as an international hit, in much smaller and virtually scenery-free productions without suffering, largely thanks to the positive charm of its Leopold/Josefa tale and the popularity of its well-known score.
Im weissen Rössl has been several times filmed, the first in 1934 with Christl Mardayn, Hermann Thimig and Theo Lingen, the second in 1952 with Hannerl Matz, Walter Müller and Johannes Heesters. The third, a distinctly up-to-date one with Peter Alexander, Waltraud Haus, Adrian Hoven, Günther Philipp and Karin Dor, is still played daily as a tourist attraction at the cinema in St Wolfgang, just along from the real Weisses Rössl on the Wolfgangsee. An Argentinian film of 1948 which borrowed the famous title told a rather different story, but a Danish one, featuring Dirch Passer and Susse Wold, dropped the title in favour of Sommer i Tyrol (1964).
UK: London Coliseum White Horse Inn 8 April 1931; Hungary: Király Színház A 'Fehér Ló' 20 October 1931; Austria: Wiener Stadttheater 25 September 1931, France; Théâtre Mogador L'Auberge du Cheval Blanc 1 October 1932; USA: Center Theater White Horse Inn 1 October 1936, Australia: Theatre Royal, Sydney White Horse Inn 31 May 1934; Films: Carl Lamac 1934, Willi Först 1952, Tobik/Jupiter Films 1960, Erik Balling Sommer i Tyrol 1964
Recordings: complete (various versions) (Amadeo, Eurodisc, HMV), complete French version (EMI, Festival), selections (Telefunken etc), selections in French (CBS, Barclay, Philips etc), selections in English (MFP etc), selections in Italian (EDM, RCA), selections in Danish (Philips, Telefunken) etc
I am fascinated with the Weimar-Era Operetta, Im Weissen Rossl (White Horse Inn) by Ralph Benatsky. I think that the main reason I am so fascinated is due to the fact that it was so quickly "pulled down" by the National Socialists shortly after it previewed in 1930. Surprisingly, it is second only to the Kurt Weill masterpiece, "The Three Penny Opera" as far as Weimar-Era musicals that became a huge world-wide sensation, yet all but forgotten today. The Nazis would simply not have allowed the wonderfully jazzy score and women of "questionable morals", pulling it from theaters, but not until it made a move to London and New York, both with quite strong runs. I also LOVE the fact that Kitty Carlisle starred in the Josepha role on Broadway. I found the article below on the Ralph Benatzy website.
Im weißen Rössl (Essay by Kurt Gänzl)
01 May 2008
Author: Kurt Gänzl
Source: Enyclopedia of the Musical Theatre (with permission of the author)
IM WEISSEN RÖSSL Singspiel (Revue-Operette) in 3 acts by Hans Müller based on the play of the same name by Oscar Blumenthal and Gustav Kadelburg. Lyrics by Robert Gilbert. Music by Ralph Benatzky. Additional songs by Robert Stolz, Bruno Granichstaedten, Robert Gilbert et al. Grosses Schauspielhaus, Berlin, 8 November 1930.
The Schwank Im weissen Rössl, originally produced in 1897 at Berlin's Lessing-Theater (30 December), was a highly successful comico-romantic play which was revived frequently on German-language stages following its first production. The story is told that director Erik Charell was given the idea of turning it into a musical spectacular when the actor Emil Jannings, who had appeared in Berlin in the piece's starring comic rôle of Giesecke, took the occasion of a luncheon with the director on the lakeside terrace of the real Weisses Rössl hotel in St Wolfgang, in the Austrian Salzkammergut, to lurch into some jokey backchat from the show with a waiter.
The book for the musical Im weissen Rössl was reorganized by Charell and rewritten by Hans Müller to fit Charell's and the Grosses Schauspielhaus's large-stage Revue-Operette requirements, the score was composed and collected by Ralph Benatzky, the theatre's house composer, with additional songs from Bruno Granichstaedten, Robert Stolz, lyricist Robert Gilbert and others tacked in, in the then and there accepted fashion (but to Benatzky's annoyance) and the piece was staged with even more than usual in the way of the spectacular accoutrements (if, given the subject, altogether less of the glitter) for which the Schauspielhaus had become famous.