Sunday, December 29, 2013

Marta Eggerth R.I.P.

Film actress and opretta star Marta Eggerth died on 26 December 2013 at the age of 101.

Marta Eggerth was born on 17 April 1912 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary (now Hungary). Her father was a banker, while her mother was singer. Encouraged by her mother, Miss Eggerth began singing when she was very young. While only a teenager she toured Denmark, Holland, and Sweden. By the time she was 17 she was in Vienna as an understudy to coloratura Adele Kern in a production of  The Violet of Montmartre. When Miss Kern was unable to perform due to her health, Marta Eggerth went on in her place. It turned out to be her big break. She went onto appear in director Max Reinhardt's production of Die Fledermaus.

It was in 1930 that she made her film debut in Csak egy kislány van a világon (1930). She made her English language film debut in Let's Love and Laugh (1931).  Over the next several years she made several films in both Europe and the United Kingdom, including  Der Draufgänger (1931), Where Is This Lady? (1932--directed by Billy Wilder),  Es war einmal ein Walzer (1932),  Ein Lied, ein Kuss, ein Mädel (1932), Die Czardasfürstin (1934), Die blonde Carmen (1935), Die ganze Welt dreht sich um Liebe (1935), Zauber der Boheme (1937), and Immer wenn ich glücklich bin..! (1938).

It was in 1940 that Marta Eggerth made her debut on Broadway in the Rogers and Hart musical Higher and Higher. She was signed by MGM, who featured her prominently in the film For Me and My Gal (1942). She also had a prominent role in Presenting Lily Mars (1943). Despite meeting with success, Miss Eggerth asked to be released early from her contract with MGM. She appeared on Broadway in a revival of The Merry Widow, which she would perform with her husband Jan Kiepura ( in various venues over the next two decades. She appeared one more time on Broadway in Polonaise. She went onto appear in the films Valse brillante (1949), Das Land des Lächelns (1952), and Frühling in Berlin (1957).

Following the death of her husband, Jan Kiepura, in 1966, Miss Eggerth retired from singing for a time. She eventually started singing again, and went on to perform concerts in Europe. In 1984 she appeared in Colette in both Seattle and Denver. She also appeared in Stephen Sondheim's Follies in Pittsburgh. At 97 years of age, in 1999, she sang at the Vienna State Opera. It was also in 1999 that she made her only guest appearance on a television programme, in the detective series Tatort. She had two concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2006 and 2007. She continued to perform in cabarets well into her nineties.

Marta Eggerth was an incredible singer. In fact, she may well have been one of the greatest sopranos of the 20th Century. Her voice was light and mellifluous, perfect for operettas. And she was an artist when it came to delivering a performance. She deliver the perfect amount of emotion for any given lyric she sang. Of course, she was obviously beautiful. It is little wonder she had a thriving film career in Europe in the Thirties, and I suspect I am not the only classic film fan who wishes she had made more films in Hollywood. She was in many ways the perfect star: talented and beautiful, and possessed of an incredible singing voice.

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