Franz von Suppé

Franz von Suppé

Franz von Suppé (né Francesco Ezechiele Ermenegildo Suppe) (18 April 1819 – 21 May 1895) was an Austrian composer of light operas and other theatre music. He came from the Kingdom of Dalmatia, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now part of Croatia).[1][2] A composer and conductor of the Romantic period, he is notable for his four dozen operettas.

Life and education

Publicity photo of Franz von Suppė, taken by Fritz Luckhardt

Franz von Suppé's parents named him Francesco Ezechiele Ermenegildo when he was born on 18 April 1819 in Spalato, now Split, Dalmatia, Austrian Empire. His father was a civil servant in the service of the Austrian Empire, as was his father before him; Suppé's mother was Viennese by birth. He simplified and Germanized his name when in Vienna, and changed "de" to "von". Outside Germanic circles, his name may appear on programmes as Francesco Suppé-Demelli.

He spent his childhood in Zara, now Zadar, where he had his first music lessons and began to compose at an early age. As a boy he had encouragement in music from a local bandmaster and by the Zara cathedral choirmaster.[3] His Missa dalmatica dates from this early period. As a teenager in Zara, Suppé studied flute and harmony. His first extant composition is a Roman Catholic mass, which premiered at a Franciscan church in Zara in 1835.

From 1840 on he worked as a composer and conductor for Franz Pokorny,[4] the director of several theaters in Vienna, Pressburg, Ödenburg and Baden bei Wien. In Vienna, after studying with Ignaz von Seyfried, he conducted in the theatre, with the opportunity to present his own operas there. Eventually, Suppé wrote music for over a hundred productions at the Theater in der Josefstadt as well as the Carltheater in Leopoldstadt, at the Theater an der Wien. He also put on some landmark opera productions, such as the 1846 production of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots with Jenny Lind.[4]

Suppé's grave at the Zentralfriedhof

Franz von Suppé died in Vienna on 21 May 1895 and is buried in the Zentralfriedhof.[4]


Suppé composed about 30 operettas and 180 farces, ballets, and other stage works. Although the bulk of his operettas have sunk into relative obscurity, the overtures – particularly Dichter und Bauer (Poet and Peasant, 1846) and Leichte Kavallerie (Light Cavalry, 1866) – remain popular, many of them having been used in soundtracks for films, cartoons, advertisements, and so on, in addition to being frequently played at symphonic "pops" concerts. Some of the operettas are still regularly performed, notably Boccaccio, Die schöne Galathée and Fatinitza; while Peter Branscombe, writing in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, characterizes Suppé's song "O du mein Österreich" as "Austria's second national song".

Suppé retained links with his native Dalmatia, occasionally visiting Split (Spalato), Zadar (Zara), and Šibenik. Some of his works are linked with the region, in particular his operetta Des Matrosen Heimkehr, the action of which takes place in Hvar. After retiring from conducting, Suppé continued to write stage work, but increasingly shifted his interest to sacred music. He wrote a Requiem for theatre director Franz Pokorny (now very rarely heard); it was first performed on 22 November 1855, during Pokorny's memorial service; an oratorio, Extremum Judicum; three masses, among them the Missa Dalmatica; songs; symphonies; and concert overtures.

Two of Suppé's more ambitious operettas – Boccaccio and Donna Juanita – have been performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, but they failed to become repertoire works in the United States.

Posthumous use

The descriptive nature of Suppé's overtures has earned them frequent use in numerous animated cartoons:

Ein Morgen, ein Mittag, ein Abend in Wien (Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna) was the central subject of the 1959 Bugs Bunny cartoon Baton Bunny. Poet and Peasant appears in the Fleischer Studios 1935 Popeye cartoon The Spinach Overture and the Oscar nominated Walter Lantz film of the same title; the overture to Light Cavalry is used in Disney's 1942 Mickey Mouse cartoon Symphony Hour.

The start of the cello solo (about one minute in) of the Poet and Peasant overture is nearly an exact match to the start of the folk song "I've Been Working on the Railroad", which was published in 1894.[5] Turner Classic Movies runs a 1955 Cinemascope short of the MGM Symphony Orchestra turning in a vigorous performance of the overture.

The Light Cavalry Overture was covered in electronic form by Gordon Langford on his 1974 album The Amazing Music of the Electronic Arp Synthesiser.[6]

List of works

Poster for Fatinitza

Some of Suppé's more well-known works are listed here with date of first performance. All are operettas unless indicated:

  • Overture Ein Morgen, ein Mittag und ein Abend in Wien (Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna) – 1844
  • Dichter und Bauer (Poet and Peasant) – 24 August 1846, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
  • Die Irrfahrt um's Glück – 24 April 1853, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
  • Das Pensionat – 24 November 1860, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
  • Die Kartenschlägerin – 26 April 1862, Kai-Theater [de] Vienna
  • Zehn Mädchen und kein Mann – 25 October 1862, Kai-Theater Vienna
  • Flotte Bursche [de] – 18 April 1863, Kai-Theater Vienna
  • Pique Dame – Opera – 22 June 1864, Graz (revision of Die Kartenschlägerin; based on the same story by Pushkin as was Tchaikovsky's opera The Queen of Spades[7])
  • Die schöne Galathée (The Beautiful Galatea) – 30 June 1865, Meysels-Theater Berlin
  • Leichte Kavallerie (Light Cavalry) – 21 March 1866, Carltheater Vienna
  • Banditenstreiche (Jolly Robbers) – 27 April 1867, Carltheater Vienna
  • Die Frau Meisterin – 20 January 1868, Carltheater Vienna
  • Fatinitza – 5 January 1876, Carltheater Vienna
  • Boccaccio – 1 February 1879, Carltheater Vienna
  • Donna Juanita [de] – 21 February 1880, Carltheater Vienna
  • Der Gascogner – 22 March 1881, Carltheater Vienna
  • Des Matrosen Heimkehr - romantic opera 4 May 1885, Stadttheater, Hamburg
  • Bellmann – 26 February 1887, Theater an der Wien, Vienna
  • Die Jagd nach dem Glück – 27 October 1888, Carltheater Vienna
  • March Oh Du mein Österreich
  • Overture Tantalusqualen


Andreas Weigel's monograph on Franz von Suppè rectified numerous phony aspects of the composer's biography in 2019.
  1. ^ Franz von Suppé – Britannica
  2. ^ "Franz von Suppé – Encarta". Archived from the original on 12 September 2009.
  3. ^ Franz von Suppé – Composers
  4. ^ a b c "Suppe, Franz in Oxford Music Online". Oxford Music Online. Retrieved 2 October 2008. (subscription required)
  5. ^ Studwell, William Emmett, The Americana Song Reader, Routledge, 1997, p. 73. ISBN 978-0789001504
  6. ^ [1] Archived 2014-03-29 at the Wayback Machine The Electronic Arp Synthesiser by Gordon Langford
  7. ^ The Operatic Pushkin

Further reading

  • Blažeković, Zdravko. "Franz von Suppé und Dalmatien", Studien zur Musikwissenschaft: Beihefte der Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich, 43 (1994), 262–272.
  • Gänzl, Kurt. The Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre (3 Volumes). New York: Schirmer Books, 2001.
  • Traubner, Richard. Operetta: A Theatrical History. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1983
  • Andreas Weigel: "Franz von Suppè (1819–1895). Mensch. Mythos. Musiker. Ehrenbürger von Gars.", Begleitpublikation zur Jubiläums-Ausstellung des Zeitbrücke-Museums Gars. Contributions by Andreas Weigel, Anton Ehrenberger, Ingrid Scherney and Christine Steininger. (Gars am Kamp) 2019. ISBN 978-3-9504427-4-8.

External links