Siberia, Tokyo, St Petersburg and the Hungarian village of Doroszma are the staging posts of this operetta, whose performance here in the Behrenstrasse brought the Jewish-Hungarian composer Paul Abraham global acclaim. With their blend of csárdás, jazz and exotic sounds so typical of Abraham, musical numbers such as “You don’t forget a Hungarian girl like her in a hurry” and “My mother came from Yokohama” have become classics of the musical theatre repertoire.
Together with his batman Jansci, hussar cavalry master Stefan Koltay escapes from Russian captivity as a prisoner of war and flees to Japan, where he encounters his erstwhile fiancée Viktoria, now wife to the American ambassador. Under diplomatic protection, Koltay, Viktoria, her brother Ferry, his Japanese fiancée O Lia Sa, and Jansci, who is in love with Viktoria’s pretty maid, travel with the American ambassador to St. Petersburg. Convinced that Viktoria no longer loves him, Koltay gives himself up to the Russian secret police. Several months later, everyone involved comes together in Viktoria’s home village in Hungary and ends up celebrating three weddings at once!
The Berlin production of Viktoria and her Hussar at the Metropol Theater (in what is today the Komische Oper Berlin) marked the meteoric international rise of Paul Abraham, a rise which ended abruptly less than three years later when the National Socialists came to power. The work – an edited version of his operetta Viktória, which had premièred in Budapest shortly before – was Abraham’s first collaboration with the two librettists who would prove so important to him, Alfred Grünwald und Fritz Löhner-Beda. They didn’t simply translate Viktória into German, but instead turned a Hungarian operetta into a genre-defining work whose cosmopolitan attitude can justifiably be described as “big-city operetta” and which reflects the vibrant capital city of Berlin in the early 1930s.