The 19th century saw a change in the way that operas and operettas were written. Whereas in the past they may have been set firmly in the local environment, in the newer age of travel it was common to find them all over the world from India to the Arctic to Africa.
Suppe was one of the greatest composers of this genre and in the course of his career he wrote over four dozen operettas. His best known works include Ganymede and Galatea (1865), Fatinitza (1876) and Boccaccio (1879).
He also composed a number of operas in which he used Viennese urban folklore. He produced many pieces of music which are still well-known today, and which are often used in soundtracks for films, TV and commercials.
His first overture Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna owes much to Rossini, whose style he had studied closely. He is also reminiscent of Weber.
There is a similar feeling of dynamism in Suppe’s overtures to his three most successful operettas. Those are Isabella, Boccaccio and Donna Juanita, all of which have their own particular charm.
Some of the songs in these works are notable for their lightness and humour, which is reflected in Suppe’s overtures. There are some fine examples of this in the overtures to Die Afrikareise, for example, where he has taken the opening theme of the opera and developed it into an overture of considerable exuberance.
Another work he had a hand in was the operetta Isabella, which is also notable for the splendid opening trumpet fanfare and a march called The Model which, although not actually part of the opera itself, ends with a delightfully witty March.
Amongst the marches, there is a delightful Up Hill and Down Dale, based on the theme of a rather more famous march from a different operetta, Fatinitza. There is also a happy little Juanita-March, which, while not based on the story of the same name, does have a good deal in common with it.
Suppe is best known for his operettas, but he was also a fine composer of orchestral music. He has a number of overtures which have survived and are frequently played at symphonic “pops” concerts. His Dichter und Bauer and Leichte Kavallerie overtures are particularly interesting, as is his rousing Overture to The African Trip. Sommersuppe