Operetta is a form of light musical theatre. It is sentimental drama set to music.
In an operetta the setting is usually some make-believe world or exotic place that lends itself to colourful scenery and costuming. Many of the characters are princes or princesses, with the men wearing officer’s uniforms and the ladies in elegant dress.
As for the stories that operettas tell, they are almost always some sort of sentimental romance. The good people triumph, the bad people are punished, and the lovers are united at the end.
The operetta was born in german-speaking countries toward the end of the nineteenth century. Franz von Suppe is the person who really created this form of musical theatre. He emphasized romance and sentiment and played down comedy. He was one of the first composers to give the waltz an important part in the musical score, and after that most operettas included a big waltz scene.
Johann Strauss “the younger”, wrote some of the greatest operettas and established their main characteristics. His operetta The Bat is probably the most famous operetta ever written. It is still being revived in many parts of the world.
The second most popular operetta ever written is probably The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar. In the late nineteenth century, operettas became popular in the United States, and soon there were American composers turning out very well-known operettas. Among them were Victor Herbert, who wrote Babes in Toyland and Naughty Marietta, and Rudolf Friml, who wrote Rose Marie and The Vagabond King.
Probably the last composer in America to turn out great operettas was Sigmund Romberg, who wrote such famous ones as The Desert Song and The New Moon.
The operetta was a form of entertainment that gave millions of people a great deal of pleasure.