“Love is like a firefly” is a line from Rudolf Friml’s 1912 Broadway operetta “The Firefly.” The score should have been by Victor Herbert, but he wanted nothing to do with any work that would star the recalcitrant lead in his “Naughty Marietta.” Therefore, Friml was engaged, and Otto Harbach (spelled Hauerbach back then) provided lyrics and dialogue.
As part of its forever growing series of full-scale operettas, The Ohio Light Opera some time ago added “The Firefly” to its collection of recordings on the Albany label. Running just a few minutes over 2 hours, this performance convinces the hearer yet again how insipid the old plots were (I will decline to give any synopsis here) and how generalized and banal the lyrics. Was NOTHING learned from Gilbert and Sullivan?
As is the case with almost all modern productions of the old-time operettas, the dialogue—and often the plot—is changed in many performances and recordings. However, I am assured, however, by a gentleman connected with the OLO recordings that their CD productions stick close to the original dialogue, except for cuts when time demands necessitate them.
Now and then, the music is well worth the purchase price. Nina, sung here more than adequately by Robin DeLeon, gets a few show stoppers, the most famous of which is “Giannina mia” in the first act. One must be grateful to Albany for supplying all the text, without which most of the choruses and Harbach’s lyrics would be impossible to understand.
The rest of the cast is quite good for this kind of music; but what there is of the Ohio Light Opera production’s dialogue should have been speeded up quite a bit. I doubt if any listener would want to hear it on repeated hearings at any rate.
One word. “The Donkey Serenade” is nowhere to be heard. It was written for the film version, which replaces the goofy romantic doings of the New York upper crust in the city and in Bermuda with the goofy political and romantic doings in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars! The Serenade was based without Friml’s permission or knowledge on his piano piece “Chanson,” latter revised as “Chansonette.”
I think this recording is important enough to belong to any collection of Broadway shows. And the dialogue can be programmed out.