Males, Females and Others
: The ‘Berlin’ Operettas of Franz Lehár, 1926-1929

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


With all but a few exceptions, operetta has been a largely neglected topic in academic scholarship. What is more, until very recently most cultural commentaries on Berlin in the 1920s have focussed on the extremes, especially on decadent, subversive cabaret and the avant-garde. This thesis takes an opposite track. It explores how operetta as a popular art form might be seen as a mirror reflecting certain dominant trends in Weimar Republic society. Using as case studies four operettas by Franz Lehár, premiered in Berlin between 1926 and 1929, issues of gender, sexuality and ‘otherness’ are explored against the cultural backdrop of the city. Trends in literature, cinema, fashion, commerce, advertising, art and photography, as well as a broader musical landscape, are used to place Lehár’s operettas in a broader context. After an Introduction, Chapter Two looks at Paganini (1926) and explores the notion of robust masculinity through an examination of the ‘star image’ of the leading tenor Richard Tauber. In Chapter Three on Der Zarewitsch (1927) the central characters, and the versions of sexuality that they appear to portray, are discussed. Chapter Four looks at Friederike (1928) and how its notions of femininity were thoroughly enmeshed in contemporary ideas about Heimat. The final chapter further develops this spatial theme, exploring how Orientalist tropes in Das Land des Lächelns (1929) may have more to do with a perception of ‘the past’ as a physical place than it does with any precise geographical location. The thesis argues that by examining these works in this context, we are not only able to see operetta as a mirror to reflect a particular Zeitgeist but, in doing so, we are able to reassess the value of the genre as a whole, as 4 offering more than merely a sentimental and romanticised approach to nostalgia.
Date of Award1 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRoger Parker (Supervisor) & Ben Schofield (Supervisor)

Cite this