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In 1994, Maestro Dino Anagnost, conductor and Music Director of The Little Orchestra Society in New York City was in need of a new libretto for an upcoming LOS version of Victor Herbert's Babes In Toyland. He approached Alyce Mott, NYC playwright and stage director, to write the project and thus was born a collaboration which has resulted in the launching of the Victor Herbert Renaissance Project.
Faced with needing a 50 minute version of Babes to fulfill LOS's needs, Ms. Mott sought the original 1903 version as part of her research. Finding that particular script proved far more difficult than she had ever anticipated. After exhausting all resources in New York, the book Victor Herbert, A Life In Music, (Edward N. Waters, The Macmillan Company, 1955) directed her to the Victor Herbert Collection in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
She found that original 1903 script and a great deal more. The Library of Congress contains a vast treasure trove of Herbert music which cries out for exploration and reassessment. LOC librarian Wayne Shirley (now retired), himself a Herbert specialist, quickly became a fountain of information and assistance. Ms. Mott became convinced that it was time to reacquaint America with Mr. Herbert's music.
Upon the completion of a highly successful Babes In Toyland in Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall on April 7, 1995, Maestro Anagnost and Ms. Mott decided to continue their collaboration and explore Herbert together.
The VHRP Philosophy
Herbert was never blessed with a great librettist. The spoken dialog was, by today's standards, overly verbose and slow paced. VHRP has been developing updated Herbert librettos for 15 years and creates concert versions with a narrator, 5-8 main characters, chorus and Herbert's original orchestrations but without the costs of elaborate sets or stagings. Ms. Mott insists on retaining the spirit and style of the original while telling a sound story which today's audiences are finding easy to follow and enjoy. The productions run in length from 60 minutes to a full 2 and 1/2 hours. The shorter operettas can easily be expanded into longer versions if you desire. All can be staged with no set, minimal costuming and props, and no choreography. However, if you really wish to stage any of the VHRP concert versions, it would not be difficult and Ms. Mott is more than willing to assist you.
For those purists among you who feel compelled to be faithful to the letter of the original script, consider whether your audience will really enjoy sitting through all that windy dialog filled with archaic jokes best understood around 1900. It's the music that is important. The way to bring America back to Herbert and return his music to its proper prominence is to leave your audience loving the music and wanting more.
To date, the Victor Herbert Renaissance Project has produced four full productions of it's new Babes In Toyland (1903), the latest one being a 100th Anniversary production in 2003; produced concert versions include: The Fortune Teller (1898); little known Cyrano de Bergerac (1899); Mlle Modiste (1906); Eileen (1917); Sweethearts (1913); Naughty Marietta (1910) and The Red Mill (1906). Ms. Mott has also completed a spruce up of both the original Marietta libretto and the original The Serenade (1897) for those who choose to do those particular scripts "as they were originally done."
That's a whopping grand total of twelve revival productions with full orchestra at New York City's Lincoln Center. No one in America is doing more than VHRP to bring this stunning music back into the musical culture. Between its performance activities and doing its best to answer all your questions with regard to Mr. Herbert, VHRP stays very busy all year long.
More information on these productions and other Herbert concert evenings can be found on this site under New Productions. You can find the program and the first ten pages of script for each of these operettas. VHSource, LLC will soon be packaging these productions in very affordable ways.
The Performance Resources and the WebLinks sections of this site will point you toward folks who can help you find the materials you need to both research your Herbert project and perform it. Finally, look for the Shop VHSource digital download store which opened June 4, 2008 so that materials are easier to obtain.
Watch the VHRP News portion of this site to see what's coming next for VHRP in New York City.