Sigmund Romberg (July 29, 1887 – November 9, 1951) was a Hungarian-born American composer, best-known for his operettas.
Romberg was born as Siegmund Rosenberg to a Jewish family in Nagykanizsa during the Austro-Hungarian Kaiserlich und königlich monarchy period. He went to Vienna to study engineering, but he also took composition lessons while living there. He moved to the United States in 1909 and, after a brief stint working in a pencil factory, was employed as a pianist in cafés. He eventually founded his own orchestra and published a few songs, which, despite their limited success, brought him to the attention of the Shubert brothers, who in 1914 hired him to write music for their Broadway theatre shows. That year he wrote his first successful Broadway revue, The Whirl of the World.
Romberg's adaptation of melodies by Franz Schubert for Blossom Time (1921, produced in the UK as Lilac Time) was a great success. He subsequently wrote his best-known operettas, The Student Prince (1924), The Desert Song (1926) and The New Moon (1928), which are in a style similar to the Viennese operettas of Franz Lehár. He also wrote Rosalie (1928) together with George Gershwin. His later works, such as Up in Central Park (1945), are closer to the American musical in style, but they were less successful. Romberg also wrote a number of film scores and adapted his own work for film.
Columbia Records asked Romberg to conduct orchestral arrangements of his music (which he had played in concerts) for a series of recordings from 1945 to 1950 that were issued both on 78-rpm and 33-1/3 rpm discs. These performances are now prized by record collectors. Naxos Records digitally remastered the recordings and issued them in the U.K. (They cannot be released in the U.S. because Sony BMG, which acquired Columbia Records, holds the copyright for their American release.) Much of Romberg's music, including extensive excerpts from his operettas, was released on LP during the 1950s and 1960s, especially by Columbia, Capitol, and RCA Victor. Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, who appeared in an MGM adaptation of The New Moon in 1940, regularly recorded and performed his music. There have also been periodic revivals of the operettas.
Romberg died in 1951, aged 64, in New York City and was interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
Romberg was the subject of the 1954 Stanley Donen-directed film Deep in My Heart, in which he was portrayed by José Ferrer.
His operetta The New Moon was the basis for two film adaptations, both titled New Moon; the 1930 version starred Lawrence Tibbett and Grace Moore in the main roles, and the 1940 version starred Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.
"Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" and "Lover, Come Back to Me" from The New Moon are still jazz-blues/soft-jazz classics; the first was performed by many jazz performers, the second is best known by Billie Holiday.
- Gänzl, Kurt. The Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre (3 Volumes). New York: Schirmer Books, 2001.
- Traubner, Richard. Operetta: A Theatrical History. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1983.
- Bordman, Gerald. American Operetta. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
- Clarke, Kevin. "Im Himmel spielt auch schon die Jazzband". Emmerich Kálmán und die transatlantische Operette 1928–1932. Hamburg: von Bockel Verlag, 2007 (examines the connection between Kálmán's jazz-operettas of the 1920s and Romberg's scores; in German)