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30th Aniversary Season - 2008
The Desert Song
Musical Play in 2 acts by Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Frank Mandel. Music by Sigmund Romberg.
Premiere: Casino Theater, New York, 30 November 1926
Adamantly opposed to the French occupation of their North African homeland, the Riffs are led in their rebellion by the mysterious Red Shadow, who appears, guides them in battle, and then disappears. Their successes have been fewer since Captain Paul Fontaine has assumed command of the French forces. Fontaine is engaged to Margot Bonvalet, and has promised, as a wedding present, to eliminate the Red Shadow as a threat. The Red Shadow is actually Pierre, the son of General Birabeau, the French provincial governor. Eight years before, to impress Margot, Pierre had left Paris and joined the French army in North Africa. When he refused an order to carry out a pointless raid on a local village, he was slapped by the governor, Fontaine's father, and forced to resign in disgrace. To avenge this insult and stamp out French cruelty, he began his masquerade as the Red Shadow, all the while living day-to-day as the milksop son of General Birabeau. Seeing little chance of winning Margot's hand as Pierre, he dons his Red Shadow costume and carries her off to a desert hideout. When the jealous dancing girl, Azurióonce Fontaine's love interestóleads Birabeau to the hideout, Pierre is unable to draw his sword against his own father. The betrayed Riffs turn him out to the desert to die...
Inspired in part by Rudolph Valentino's 1921 silent film, The Sheik, and most familiar to today's audiences through the 1953 film version with Gordon MacRae and Kathryn Grayson, The Desert Song remains the quintessential example of what we all expect from operetta: romance in an exotic locale played out to the lushest of musical scores as only Romberg could create. Thrill to the strains of "One alone," "My desert is waiting," "The Riff song," and "Romance," and learn what it means for a girl to have "It."