PE0270. THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER (Oscar Straus), recorded 1911, w.Lempriere Pringle, Evelyn D'Alroy, Charles H. Workman, Edris Coombes, Amy Pennerstorfer-Maxim, Victor Light Opera Company, Band of King Edward's Horse & Herr Gottlieb's Orchestra. (England) Palaeophonics 135, w.Elaborate ‘The Play’ 28pp. Brochure replete with numerous photos of the London Lyric Theatre 1910 production & biographies. Excellently transferred from the legendary Acoustic 78rpm Odeon, Gramophone Company & Victor rarities.
“THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER (German title: DER TAPFERE SOLDAT) is an operetta composed in 1908 by Oscar Straus based on George Bernard Shaw's 1894 play, ARMS AND THE MAN. It premiered on 14 November 1908 at the Theater an der Wien. English versions were successful on Broadway and in London, beginning in 1909. The first film adaptation was in 1915.
When Shaw gave Leopold Jacobson the rights to adapt the play, he provided three conditions: none of Shaw's dialogue, nor any of the character's names, could be used; the libretto must be advertised as a parody; and Shaw would accept no monetary compensation. In spite of this, Shaw's original plot, and with it the central message of the play, remain more or less untouched. The main love aria, for instance, is sung by the heroine just before she meets the ‘other man’, and the ‘brave’ soldier turns out to be a worse coward than his unmilitaristic rival. Shaw despised the result, however, calling it ‘a putrid opera bouffe in the worst taste of 1860’, but grew to regret not accepting payment when, despite his opinion of the work, it became an international success.
When Shaw heard, in 1921, that Franz Lehár wanted to set his play PYGMALION to music, he sent word to Vienna that Lehár be instructed that he could not touch PYGMALION without infringing Shaw's copyright and that Shaw had ‘no intention of allowing the history of THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER to be repeated’. PYGMALION was eventually adapted by Lerner and Loewe as MY FAIR LADY, made possible because they were, at least in theory, adapting a screenplay co-authored by Shaw, with rights controlled by the film company.
The first English-language version premiered in New York, translated by Stanislaus Stange, on 13 September 1909, where it was the hit of the Broadway season. It was revived on Broadway in 1910, 1921, 1930, 1931, 1934, and 1947 (with a revised libretto by Guy Bolton. Its London premiere at the Lyric Theatre in 1910, with C. H. Workman as Bumerli, Elsie Spain as Mascha and Roland Cunningham as Alexius, was also a tremendous success, running for 500 performances. The operetta was adapted as a silent film in 1915.”
“Australian bass, Lempriere Pringle had a notable international singing career, appearing both at Covent Garden and the New York Met. He studied in Hobart, then in Frankfurt under Julius Stockhausen, teacher of Amy Sherwin. He spent several years developing his career with the Carl Rosa company, and from 1897 he worked at Covent Garden, appearing in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, FIDELIO and LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, as well as several Wagner roles. He also toured the USA with Albani and Patti, appearing at the Met. He returned to work for several seasons in Australia from 1900, making recordings and appearing in an early film, THE LURE OF LONDON. In 1910 he appeared in the first London run of Oscar Straus' operetta THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER, based on Shaw's ARMS AND THE MAN.”
- Jeff Brownrigg, THE COMPANION TO TASMANIAN HISTORY
“A newcomer to the stage, Charles H. Workman joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1894 as Calynx in a provincial tour of UTOPIA, LIMITED. In 1895, he also played the roles of Pedrillo in THE CHIEFTAIN, Mr. Bunthorne's Solicitor in PATIENCE and Pennyfather in AFTER ALL!, the curtain raiser for a revival of THE MIKADO. Workman then created the small part of Ben Hashbaz in THE GRAND DUKE (1896). He later created the part of Adam in F. C. Burnand and R. C. Lehmann's HIS MAJESTY (1897; appearing briefly as King Ferdinand when George Grossmith abandoned the part, until Henry Lytton took over). Workman was Simon in OLD SARAH, the companion piece for the first revival of THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD (1897). In THE GRAND DUCHESS OF GEROLSTEIN that year, he also played Carl.
Beginning in 1897, Workman was promoted to principal comedian of the main repertory touring company, appearing as the Lord Chancellor in IOLANTHE, Ko-Ko in THE MIKADO, and Jack Point in YEOMEN. He returned to the Savoy Theatre in 1906 and played the principal comedian roles created by George Grossmith for the company's repertory seasons there and on tour with the company, until 1909.
Workman then left the D'Oyly Carte organisation and became an actor-manager. He leased the Savoy and produced two comic operas: Eden & Somerville's THE MOUNTAINEERS (1909), appearing as Pierre, and W. S. Gilbert and Edward German's FALLEN FAIRIES (1909), appearing as Lutin. He then produced an Edwardian musical comedy, TWO MERRY MONARCHS (1910), appearing as Rolandyl, and an opera, Gluck's ORFEO, (1910).
Workman continued his acting career in London, earning good notices, in THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER (1910–11), NIGHTBIRDS (1911) and THE GIRL IN THE TAXI (1912–13). In 1914, he travelled to Australia where he once again appeared in Gilbert and Sullivan operas with the J. C. Williamson Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company (1918 and thereafter)
In Australia, Workman also played Ali Baba in CHU CHIN CHOW (1920–21). In 1922–23, he led a tour of India and east Asia with his wife, Bessel Adams, a former D'Oyly Carte singer, playing in Gilbert and Sullivan, again with J. C. Williamson's company. Adams died on that tour in February 1923 in Calcutta. Workman died at sea in May 1923, just short of his 50th birthday, in a steamer outside Hong Kong, returning from the same tour.”
- The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 May, 1923
“D'Alroy's career was cut short when at 33 she died. She first appeared on the stage in 1902. After touring with Ben Greet's company for a time, she joined Sir Herbert Beerbohm at His Majesty's Theatre. With Beerbohm she played several parts in Shakespeare's plays: Ophelia (1910), Portia (THE MERCHANT OF VENICE also in 1910), and Oberon (1911). WHO WAS WHO IN THE THEATRE reports that her favorite role was Ophelia.”
“If you are interested in what original audiences of early 20th century English operetta and musical comedy heard, there is a great source for such recordings – the record label Paleophonics. Dominic Combe prepares CDs for them from his huge collection of shellacs and a few cylinders.
I came across these somewhat hard-to-find CDs on the website of the mail-order company NORBECK, PETERS AND FORD, (norpete.com) which is specialized in historical performances from the beginning of recorded sound all the way through to the 1960s.
There are now over fifty Paleophonics CDs, and more are being prepared or scheduled for future release. Each CD comes with a lavishly illustrated program booklet with reviews, information about the shows and fantastic publicity photographs, and artwork from the original London productions, in the form of reproductions of the magazine PLAY PICTORIAL.”
- Thomas Krebs, OPERETTA RESEARCH CENTER - PALEOPHONICS - A JOURNEY TO THE DAWN OF RECORDED SOUND IN MUSICAL COMEDY, 1 July, 2020