The three-act operetta "Leányvásár" by Viktor Jacobi was a big success in Budapest in 1911, and an English adaptation entitled "The Marriage Market" did good business in London and New York two years later. The work has subsequently disappeared from the English-speaking stage, but it evidently retained enough popularity in its native country in 1985 for Hungarian television to make this version of it. It is not a lavish production. Indeed, it looks as if the singers, costumes, and sets of an operetta theatre were simply transported to a studio and a few outdoor locations. On the credit side, this means that the principals are capable operetta performers, and they give an enjoyable performance of the score. On the other hand, stage routines and props do not appear to advantage in the open air, especially under a grey sky in a stiff breeze.
"Leányvásár" is set in California, and the first act is essentially 'cowboy operetta'. This is decidedly incongruous, as Jacobi's music is firmly in the Central European tradition. As a European western, the show might be said to exist somewhere in the wide cultural space between "Carry on Cowboy" and "The Girl of the Golden West". The comic fisticuffs in the saloon bar go on and on. Into this unaccustomed milieu come two Austro-Hungarian aristocrats, Count Rottenberg and his silly son Fritz, who are in the USA to find a wealthy bride for the latter. Lucy Harrison, the daughter of a millionaire senator, and her friend Bessy are with them when they crash their car near a 'Wild West' one-horse town. There they find the annual 'marriage market' taking place. Lucy assumes this to be some kind of light-hearted folk festival and pairs off with cowboy Tom Miggles. Then she learns that he takes it quite seriously and considers her his wife. Senator Harrison hurries her away, but Tom is not to be shaken off. Of course, there is a romantic happy ending.
Even as operettas go, "Leányvásár" is pretty formulaic, alternating between love duets for the leads (Lucy and Tom) and humorous duets for the second couple (Bessy and Fritz), with intervals of unsophisticated comedy. Some of the songs are memorable, however, especially the one really American-style number in the score, the ragtime duet "Gilolo". The (misguided?) attempt to 'open up' the stage show with outside filming adds a certain amount of extra humour, e.g. Lucy 'singing' while swimming and clutching a lifebuoy in a rather choppy sea. Operetta enthusiasts will enjoy the chance to make the acquaintance of an unfamiliar work. Others will view it as a curiosity at best. If Hungarian singing cowboys are what you're after, this is the show for you.
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