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'My Song For You – Marta Eggerth and Jan Kiepura' Exhibit Opens

My Song For Your – Marta Eggerth and Jan Kiepura Between Two Worlds will remain at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna for at least a year.

'My Song For You – Marta Eggerth and Jan Kiepura' Exhibit Opens

An exhibit honoring the distinguished artistry and stage/screen careers of the international superstars, the "dream couple" Marta Eggerth and Jan Kiepura, has now officially opened. My Song For You - Marta Eggerth and Jan Kiepura was inaugurated on October 20th with a simulcast online ceremony hosted by the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York led by Director Michael Haider, and the University of Music and Performance in Vienna, or MDW. Representing the MDW were Prof. Gerold Gruber, founder of the Exil.Arte Center and Dr. Michael Haas, the Center's co-founder and senior researcher, as well as Susanne Korbel, curator of the Eggerth/Kiepura exhibit. The ceremony opened with tenor Ramón Vargas honoring Jan Kiepura singing "Recondita armonia" from "Tosca" and the Neapolitan song, "Passione."

The exhibit, mounted by the Exil.Arte -- Center for Banned Music -- at the MDW in Vienna is dedicated to the recovery of the legacy of countless musicians and artists who suffered during the Nazi regime. Many were colleagues and friends of Ms. Eggerth and Mr. Kiepura. These were people who were in the midst of distinguished artistic careers and whose lives were devastated by the rise of Nazism. They saw their artistry banned in their homelands, and many were arrested, imprisoned or perished.

Ms. Eggerth and Mr. Kiepura immigrated to America, and others followed including Emmerich Kalmán, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Lotte Lehmann, Maria Jeritza, Artur Rubenstein and Billy Wilder.

Having lost so much and especially dear friends and colleagues, Jan Kiepura and Marta Eggerth's careers continued in the United States with Ms. Eggerth on contract to MGM, and Mr. Kiepura singing leading tenor roles at the Metropolitan Opera. They went on to become the leading exponents of Franz Lehár's most popular operetta, The Merry Widow on Broadway, having performed it some two thousand times in five languages; as well as other operettas and many concerts. They had devoted followings amongst the émigré community and captivated new generations of audiences to opera and operetta. Their legacies remained vivid in the memories of millions throughout Europe.

This exhibit presents a vast collection from the Kiepura-Eggerth estate of posters, photos, videos, costumes, correspondence and memorabilia, put together by Jane Knox-Kiepura and Marjan Kiepura, the couple's daughter-in-law and son, who were also on hand to speak during the virtual opening ceremony. A mini-cinema was also built as part of the exhibit to showcase Ms. Eggerth's and Mr. Kiepura's films.

Marta Eggerth (1912-2013) and Polish-born Jan Kiepura (1902-1966), who together fled Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938, created a musical and film legacy that crossed genres and revolutionized opera, operetta and the film industry. In 1929, Ms. Eggerth started making movies when the film industry was on the cutting edge of sound, and went on to make some 40 movies during the 1930s and after the War. She would also grace the stages in opera and operetta garnering her worldwide fame and recognition. Mr. Kiepura, who was renowned as the "King of Tenors" was not only a superstar on the opera stages but also in film. At the time, cinema was a vehicle that opera stars coveted to be part of and Jan Kiepura became a household name. In 1934, Ms. Eggerth and Mr. Kiepura met in Vienna. Their artistry, alone or together, was heralded on the stages as well as seen by the masses through film. Composers such as Paul Abraham, Richard Stoltz, and Franz Lehár wrote songs especially for them that would become "Schlager" or pop songs of the day. They were enormously successful "crossover" artists singing at a time when the term didn't exist. The star couple made more than 50 movies in multiple languages that were distributed worldwide and were retitled in different countries.. Today, more than a dozen of these movies are presumed lost.

Following Mr. Kiepura's sudden passing in 1966, Ms. Eggerth wanted to retire. However, at the urging of her family, she would continue charming adoring audiences on concert stages throughout Europe and in the US. Shows included Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones' Colette and Stephen Sondheim's Follies, as well as programs at the Austrian Forum New York, an arts organization that she headed oriented toward the émigré community. Numerous concerts and television appearances occurred in Vienna, Germany and Poland over the years as well as a recital at London's Wigmore Hall in 2001. In her late 90's, she would give master classes on operetta passing on her legacy to a new generation of singers. She was a favorite performer at gala concerts including at the annual Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall as well as seen by devoted fans in her many cabaret performances at the Neue Galeries's Café Sabarsky in New York City.

In recent years, Turner Classic Movies has regularly featured classic Hollywood musicals including "For Me and My Gal" and "Presenting Lily Mars," both featuring Ms. Eggerth and introducing her to thousands of film buffs in the United States.

My Song For Your - Marta Eggerth and Jan Kiepura Between Two Worlds will remain at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna for at least a year. Following, it is planned that it will travel to London, Berlin and New York. A final restoration of Ms. Eggerth's and Mr. Kiepura's last European film from 1937, "Zauber der Boheme," is being redone with new subtitles with plans in the works to show it at the The Austrian Culture Forum in New York. At the moment the Vienna exhibit is closed due to covid restrictions but is scheduled to reopen in December.


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