Concert Notes

Emmerich Kálmán’s Gräfin Mariza Overture

Notes by TŌN violinist Yeseul Park

The Composer
Emmerich Kálmán was a Hungarian composer of the 20th century. While he was attending the Budapest Academy of Music, he studied with Hans Kossler and taught Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, who wrote pieces that will also be performed at today’s concert. Kálmán is one of the greatest composers of operetta, which is a form of theater and a genre of light opera. It includes spoken dialogue, song, and dances, with a shorter length and smaller orchestral size than a typical opera. Although he composed many different pieces, his humorous cabaret songs led him to the greatest composition of operettas. The most famous work is Gräfin Mariza (Countess Maritza). This piece consists of three acts with an overture.

The Story
The story begins with Countess Maritza, who spends most of her time in the city. Her manor and estate are maintained by Count Tassilo, who is working to set aside some cash there, unbeknownst to his sister Lisa. One day, Maritza decides to hold a fake engagement party to put off her numerous followers. She names her fictitious fiancé based on her recollection of a Strauss operetta she saw: Baron Kolomán Zsupán. However, Maritza is embarrassed when the genuine Zsupán makes an appearance at the party. Meanwhile, to Tassilo’s embarrassment, his sister Lisa also arrives. These embarrassments turn into romance, culminating in the engagement of Maritza and Tassilo, and of Zsupán and Lisa.

Overture as Introduction
Whereas an overture in an orchestra concert program can often be thought of as a short piece disconnected from the rest of the program, I would like to ask you to regard the overture as a cover for a book. Just like a book cover vividly illustrates its narrative on the front and outlines its synopsis on the back, this overture can be thought of as an introduction to the rest of the pieces that will be played. Feel how the overture sets the stage by drawing the vibes from the manor and estate of the Countess Maritza in Hungary in the 1920s, and imagine the carefree and lovely love stories of four people as you listen.