Victor Herbert

Irish-born composer Victor Herbert, an enormously popular composer of American operetta, published about 80 songs.

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Born in Dublin, Herbert’s father died soon after Herbert’s birth and Herbert spent his childhood first in London with his novelist grandfather Samuel Herbert and then in Stuttgart when his mother remarried a German physicist.

Herbert wanted to study medicine, but could not because of financial difficulties, leading him to enter the Stuttgart Conservatory instead. Herbert studied cello and played for one year in an orchestra in Vienna, which began his interest in operetta. Following that year, Herbert returned to Stuttgart to play in the court orchestra there for five years.

In 1886, Herbert married soprano Therese Foerster, and the two sailed for America immediately after their marriage. Therese was scheduled to sing in Aida at the Metropolitan Opera, and Herbert would be principal cellist of the orchestra.

Herbert was immediately active in New York musical life and wrote his first operetta, Prince Ananias, in 1894. At this time, he was active as both a conductor and a cellist. In 1904, he formed the Victor Herbert Orchestra.

Herbert composed many successful operettas, including Babes in Toyland (1903). His songs are often used in musicals today, such as his song “I’m Falling in Love with Someone,” used in Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002). His song “I Want to Be a Prima Donna (Art is Calling for Me)” (from Herbert’s operetta The Enchantress) is a favorite tongue-in-cheek song for sopranos today.

–Christie Finn

Source: New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

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(William Bolcom, Oley Speaks, George M. Cohan, Paul Dresser, Victor Herbert and Carrie Jacobs-Bond)


The Music of Victor Herbert

(Victor Herbert)


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