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Franz Lehar
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    (April 30, 1870-October 24, 1948)
    Born in Komarom, Hungary (now Komarno, Slovakia)
    Known for his operettas, including ‘The Merry Widow’ (1905), ‘Gipsy Love’ (1910), ‘Where the Lark Sings’ (1918), ‘Paganini’ (1925), and ‘The Land of Smiles’ (1929)
    While he was studying violin at the Prague Conservatory, Anton Dvorak advised him to switch to composition, but the Conservatory rules prevented it.
    He was the second choice for ‘The Merry Widow,’ brought in when the original composer was unable to get past the first act.
    His efforts at grand opera were not as successful as his operettas.
    He was one of Hitler’s favorite composers.
    He gave Hitler a signed copy of the program from the premier of ‘The Merry Widow’ as a birthday present (1943).
    He was appointed the youngest bandleader in the Austrian-Hungarian army.
    ’The Merry Widow’ was so popular that during one year it played in five theaters in Buenos Aires simultaneously.
    He refused when the Nazis ‘suggested’ he divorce his wife Sophie, a Jewish convert to Roman Catholicism.
    He tried (unsuccessfully) to prevent the arrests of his librettist Fritz Lohner-Beda and singer Louis Treumann.
    He said, ‘My conscience is clear. My ‘Merry Widow’ was Hitler’s favorite opera. That’s not my fault.’

Credit: C. Fishel

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