Music in the Air

Music in the Air is a musical written by Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics and book) and Jerome Kern (music). It introduced songs such as "The Song Is You", "In Egern on the Tegern See" and "I've Told Ev'ry Little Star". The musical premiered on Broadway in 1932, and followed the team's success with the musical Show Boat from 1927.

Music in the Air
Original Broadway Opening Night Playbill
MusicJerome Kern
LyricsOscar Hammerstein II
BookOscar Hammerstein II
Productions1932 Broadway
1933 West End
1934, 1937, 1944, 1951 St. Louis, Missouri
1951 Broadway revival


The original Broadway production opened at the Alvin Theatre on November 8, 1932, moved to the 44th Street Theatre on March 31, 1933 and closed on September 16, 1933 after 342 performances.[1] It was directed by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, and the cast included Reinald Werrenrath (Cornelius), Natalie Hall (Frieda Hatzfeld), Tullio Carminati (Bruno Mahler), Katherine Carrington (Sieglinde Lessing), Al Shean (Dr. Walter Lessing), Walter Slezak (Karl Reder), Nicholas Joy (Ernst Weber), and Marjorie Main (Anna). The music was orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett.[2][3]

The musical opened in the West End at His Majesty's Theatre on May 19, 1933 and ran for 199 performances.[4] The musical was staged at The Muny outdoor musical theatre, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1934, and again in 1937, 1944 and 1951.[5]

The 1934 film version starred Gloria Swanson, John Boles, Douglass Montgomery, June Lang, and Al Shean. The director was Joe May, and the screenplay was by Howard Irving Young and Billy Wilder. It was released by Fox Film Corporation.[6] The 1934 film, however, omitted the show's best-known number, The Song Is You. The song was filmed, but deleted from the final print.

A 1951 Broadway revival ran from October 8, 1951 through November 24, 1951 at the Ziegfeld Theatre. Directed by Oscar Hammerstein II, the cast featured Jane Pickens, Dennis King and Charles Winninger.[7] Because of possible anti-German feeling after World War II, Hammerstein changed the setting from Munich to Zurich with the resulting Swiss nationalities.[8]

In 2009, Encores! at New York City Center presented a staged concert version of the show, starring Douglas Sills (Bruno Mahler), Sierra Boggess (Sieglinde Lessing), Dick Latessa (Herr Direktor Kirschner), Marni Nixon (Frau Direktor Kirschner), Ryan Silverman (Karl Reder) and Kristin Chenoweth (Frieda Hatzfeld). It ran from February 5 until February 8.[9]

Principal characters

  • Cornelius, a bird-seller
  • Frieda Hatzfeld, an operetta star
  • Bruno Mahler, a composer
  • Sieglinde Lessing, a young singer in love with Karl
  • Dr Walther Lessing, Sieglinde's father, a composer and music teacher
  • Karl Reder, the local schoolteacher
  • Ernst Weber, publisher
  • Lili Kirschner, wife of the producer


The musical takes place in Bavaria during the 1930s but some contemporary productions have modified it to present day.

In the simple mountain town of Edendorff in Bavaria, music teacher Dr. Walther Lessing has a beautiful daughter Sieglinde. She is in love with Karl Reder, the local schoolmaster. Karl and Sieglinde travel to the sophisticated city of Munich and try to get a song written by Walther and Karl published. Karl becomes enamored of glamorous operetta diva Frieda Hatzfeld while Sieglinde is smitten by Bruno Mahler, an operetta librettist with whom Frieda lives. Mahler wants Sieglinde to appear in his new work "Tingle-Tangle". Frieda moves out of Mahler's apartment and moves to an hotel where she can see Karl on a regular basis.

Bruno takes Sieglinde to the Munich zoo where Sieglinde is warned by Cornelius, a bird-seller, that as she and Karl are country people, it is not wise to stay in the big city. Sieglinde spurns an unwanted pass from Bruno while Frieda finds Karl equally unresponsive. Frieda plans to leave for Berlin to star in a new film. Before she leaves, she warns Karl that Bruno will cast Sieglinde aside as soon as he has used her. It is up to Karl to tell the producer of the show that Frieda has left. Bruno insists, to Karl's chagrin, that Sieglinde can take over the leading role in the operetta. Resulting from machinations of her father, and a somewhat chaotic dress rehearsal it becomes evident that Sieglinde is far too inexperienced to take on a leading role. As a result Bruno's affections vanish. Walther and Sieglinde are told in no uncertain terms that the theatre is no place for amateurs and they should return to their home, and they do.

Frieda meanwhile has returned to take up the leading role and is an overwhelming success. Karl returns to Edendorff and to Sieglinde, both having learned a valuable lesson.

Musical numbers


  1. Music in the Air Original 1932 production listing, Retrieved November 17, 2007
  2. "Orchestrator on His Own"Time Magazine (Monday, Dec. 12, 1932), Retrieved May 1, 2008
  3. "Robert Russell Bennett"Internet Broadway Database, Retrieved May 1, 2008
  4. Chronology for London, 1933, Retrieved January 2, 2009
  5. "Show Archive (1930–1939)", Retrieved February 16, 2016
  6. Music in the Air (1934 film) Internet Movie Database, Accessed May 1, 2008
  7. "Old Musical in Manhattan"Time Magazine (Monday, Oct. 22, 1951), Retrieved May 1, 2008
  8. Green, Stanley and Green, Kay. "Broadway Musicals, Show By Show" (1996). Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0-7935-7750-0, p. 81
  9. Gans, Andrew."There's Music in the Air at City Center Beginning Feb. 5", February 5, 2009
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