Love conquers all in The Csárdás Princess | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Love conquers all in The Csárdás Princess

But what else can you expect from a Viennese operetta?

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Composer Emmerich Kálmán was a Hungarian Jew who found fame in Vienna during the 1910s and '20s with such operettas asDer Zigeunerprimas (The Gypsy Band Leader) and Countess Maritza. Perhaps he sensed that, despite his success, he would always be a bit of an outsider in the world of Austrian high society that embraced his music, which distinctively fused elegantly romantic Viennese waltzes with the csárdás, a robust folk dance whose name derives from a Hungarian word for "tavern." One of his most popular works, the 1915 Die Csárdásfürstin (The Csárdás Princess), recounts the story of a Hungarian cabaret singer, Sylva, whose romance with a Viennese aristocrat, Edwin, seems doomed to failure: his stuffy parents forbid their son from wedding a girl from "the wrong side of the tracks" and have arranged for him to marry his childhood friend Stasi instead.

Of course, being a Viennese operetta, The Csárdás Princess reaches a happy ending, with a lot of lively music and dancing along the way. Kálmán's lush, tuneful, rhythmically charged score is the main draw in this revival by Folks Operetta, a local company dedicated to reclaiming the heritage of Jewish artists who contributed to Viennese operetta's "Silver Age."

The fine singers under Gerald Frantzen's direction include Katherine Petersen as Sylva, Jonathan Zeng as Edwin, Emma Sorenson as Stasi, and William Roberts in the comic role of Sylva's womanizing manager Boni. The offstage 25-piece orchestra under conductor Mark A. Taylor's baton is splendid, and deserves to be more visible.   v

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