( b. Apr 17, 1912 Budapest, HUNGARY - d. Dec 26, 2013 Rye, New York, USA ) Female
A coloratura soprano, Marta Eggerth was often called "the Maria Callas of operetta" for her vocal facility, great charm and sheer ubiquity -- in opera houses, on the concert stage, in the movies and on Broadway -- in the 1930s and long afterward.
For decades, she practically owned the title role in Lehar's most famous operetta, The Merry Widow; she sang it thousands of times, often opposite her husband, the celebrated Polish tenor Jan Kiepura.
Miss Eggerth, who began singing as a child in her native Hungary and became a star as a teenager in Vienna in the period known as the Silver Age of operetta. Ushered in with the premiere of The Merry Widow in 1905, it was a time when the sprightly, tuneful work of Middle European composers like Lehar, Kalman and Oscar Straus was performed before devoted audiences worldwide.
Miss Eggerth received her first major American stage engagement in 1940, when she appeared in a featured role in the Rodgers and Hart musical comedy Higher and Higher, directed by Joshua Logan.
With her husband, Miss Eggerth starred in a hit revival of The Merry Widow that opened on Broadway in 1943, with choreography by George Balanchine and an English-language book co-written by Sidney Sheldon.
The couple returned to Broadway in 1945 for Polonaise, a musical, set to the melodies of Chopin, based on the life of the 18th-century military hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko.
Miss Eggerth, who appeared in dozens of films in Europe, had supporting roles in two Hollywood musicals, the Judy Garland vehicles "For Me and My Gal" (1942) and "Presenting Lily Mars" (1943).
In her late 80s, she was heard at Wigmore Hall in London. In her 90s, she sang periodically at Cafe Sabarsky on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Miss Eggerth gave her last public performance in 2011, at 99. That engagement came nine decades after her stage debut, at which -- in a fitting testament to her youth, the more innocent era and the sweetness of the musical fare with which she had begun to make her name -- she asked to be paid in chocolate.
Source: The New York Times obituary
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