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British Musical Theatre   Liza Lehmann

Elizabeth Nina Mary Frederika Lehmann was born in London on 11 July 1862. She died at Pinner, Middlesex on 19 September 1918.

The daughter of the painter Rudolf Lehmann, Liza Lehmann was brought up in a home where the famous and fashionable of London were often to be found. Thoroughly educated in all the arts, she was at first a concert singer, and then a composer, becoming well known for her compositions of parlour music and, in particular, the song cycles `In a Persian Garden' (1896) and 'The Daisy Chain' and an 'In Memoriam' based on Tennyson's poem. In 1904 she was commissioned by Frank Curzon, who had just had record-breaking success with the musical comedy A Chinese Honeymoon, to provide the score for another piece in a similar vein. Teamed with top librettist Owen Hall and lyricist James Hickory Wood, Miss Lehmann turned out a fine set of popular-styled songs for the musical comedy Sergeant Brue without writing anything that was likely to wear out the barrel organs of the town.

Sergeant Brue had a good London run and a Broadway production (1905) but, irritated at the way Curzon had interpolated other composers' music into her score despite her announced willingness to supply any extra music, Miss Lehmann wrote no more for the musical comedy stage. She did, however, provide an elegant score to a text by Laurence Housman for a comic opera version of The Vicar of Wakefield (1906). This time it was the librettist who flounced angrily out when his over-long book was cut to make room for the vast amount of music his composer had supplied. The Vicar of Wakefield was produced in the West End by vocalist David Bispham with some success, but once again the composer ventured no further. She moved on instead to compose the score for an opera, Everyman, which was played by the Beecham Opera Company in 1916.

1904 Sergeant Brue (Owen Hall, James Hickory Wood) Strand Theatre 14 June

1906 The Vicar of Wakefield (Laurence Housman) Prince of Wales Theatre 12 December

Biography: The Life of Liza Lehmann By Herself (T Fisher Unwin, London, 1919)

British Musical Theatre | Composers

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