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July 24, 2012

The Musical Worlds of Victor Herbert to Open Aug. 16

While Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein have more immediate name recognition, their musicals would not have been possible without the pioneering work of Victor Herbert, who almost single-handedly moved Broadway into, through and out of its operetta phase.

The Library of Congress and the Music Division will open "The Musical Worlds of Victor Herbert" on Aug. 16. The exhibition will be free and open to the public, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, from Aug. 16, 2012, to Jan. 26, 2013, in the Performing Arts Reading Room Gallery in the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

"The Musical Worlds of Victor Herbert" examines the multifaceted life of this influential musician through materials selected from the vast Victor Herbert Collection at the Library of Congress. The exhibition explores his remarkable career through a display of original Herbert scores of both concert and show music, printed copies of his music, programs, publicity materials and photographs, as well as the composer’s death mask. The exhibition also will include material about Herbert’s role as the founder of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). An audiovisual program featuring selections of Herbert’s music and clips from films of his operettas will complement the exhibition objects.

Victor Herbert (1859–1924) was an Irish-American composer, conductor and activist, whose greatest artistic legacy lies in his role as the grandfather of the American musical theater. He brought operetta to the Broadway stage and helped it transition to that of the musical. Operetta is a light, usually comic, form of opera with spoken dialogue, songs, and dances that flourished during the second half of the 19th century and first two decades of the 20th century. It evolved into revues such as the "Ziegfeld Follies" and by mid-century had been largely superseded by book musicals, such as those by Rogers and Hammerstein and others.

Herbert’s operetta "Prince Ananias" (1894) was the first of more than 40 works that dominated the American musical stage for nearly three decades, concluding with "The Ziegfeld Follies" of 1924. His most popular work, "Babes in Toyland" (1903), is still regularly produced, and "The March of the Toys" and "Toyland" have become Christmas classics.

A man of enormous energy, Herbert also served as music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony, the 22nd Regiment Band and the Victor Herbert Orchestra. He also championed Irish causes in the United States and in Ireland, while recording extensively for the Edison and Victor Recording labels. ASCAP, which he founded, continues to ensure that copyright holders receive royalties for performance of their work.

Herbert’s music has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, marked by new productions of the musicals, recordings of the concert works and a new biography. Scholars now acknowledge his founding role in American musical theater and are taking a fresh look at his concert music and his important role in American culture.

Following its closing on Jan. 26, 2013, the exhibition will be displayed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angles Feb. 24 through Aug. 17, 2013.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at

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PR 12-142
ISSN 0731-3527

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