Victor Herbert

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Photograph of Victor Herbert

Victor Herbert (February 1, 1859 - May 26, 1924) was a popular composer of light opera.

He was born in Dublin and played cello in the orchestra of Johann Strauss in Vienna before emigrating to the USA, where he joined the Metropolitan Opera Company, again as a cellist.

His works include:

Victor Herbert received his early musical training in Europe at the Stuttgart Conservatory, where he developed into an outstanding cello player. He and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1886 to join the Metropolitan Opera—she as a soprano to sing the title role in the American premier of Verdi’s Aida and he as principal cellist.

In 1892, Victor Herbert exhibited another side of his musical life when he became conductor of the 22nd Regimental Band of the New York National Guard, succeeding the great Patrick Gilmore; the following year he took over leadership of Gilmore’s civilian band following Gilmore’s death. Then in another change of pace, Herbert conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1898 until 1902. Six years later, he founded the Victor Herbert Orchestra, and conducted programs of light orchestral music on tours and at summer resorts for many years.

In 1915, Herbert became the first man to compose a film score—for The Fall of a Nation, a forgotten sequel to The Birth of a Nation.

In the early years of the twentieth century, Herbert championed the right of composers to profit from their work and worked closely with John Philip Sousa and others in founding the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), the organization that even today protects the rights of creative musicians.

In 1894, Victor Herbert composed the first of his operettas, Prince Ananias, and it was soon followed by The Serenade and The Fortune Teller. Starting in 1903, Babes in Toyland, Mlle Modiste, The Red Mill, Naughty Marietta, and many other successes made him one of the best-known figures in American music. He finally realized his long-standing intention to compose an Irish operetta, Eileen, produced in 1917.

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