Comparison of the Original Operetta Arizona Lady, by Emmerich Kálmán, with its 2015 Adaptation Performed by Arizona Opera
Emmerich Kálmán (1882-1953) was a leading composer during the Silver Age of Viennese operetta. His final work, Arizona Lady (1954), premiered posthumously, on Bavarian Radio, January 1, 1954. The stage premiere followed on February 14, 1954, at the Stadttheater in Bern, Switzerland. It is his only operetta that is set entirely in the United States, in Tucson, Arizona. Arizona Opera commissioned and produced a new adaptation of Arizona Lady, which was performed in October 2015, in both Tucson, Arizona, and Phoenix, Arizona. The libretto was heavily revised, as well as translated, primarily into English with some sections in Spanish and German.
Through comparison of the original and adaptation, this study examines the artistic decisions regarding which materials, both musical and dramatic, were kept, removed, or added, as well as the rationale behind those decisions. The changes reflect differences between an Arizonan audience in 2015 and the European audience of the early 1950s. These differences include ideas of geographical identity from a native versus a foreign perspective; tolerance for nationalistic or racial stereotypes; cultural norms for gender and multiculturalism; and cultural or political agendas. Comparisons are made using the published piano/vocal score for the original version, the unpublished piano/vocal score for the adaptation, archival performance video of the Arizona Opera performance, and the compact disc recording of the 1954 radio broadcast premiere.