RUDOLF FRIML (1879-1972) : Biography

Rudolf Friml was born in Prague and started his studies at the Prague Conservatory in 1895, where he studied piano and composition with Antonin Dvorak.  He served as accompanist to Jan Kubelik, with whom he toured twice in the United States.  Friml moved to America in 1906 and premiered his Piano Concerto in B Major in 1906 under the direction of Walter Damrosch (New York Symphony Orchestra).

His introduction to the Broadway stage occurred because of a professional dispute between soprano Emma Trentini and composer Victor Herbert. Herbert had been chosen to write the score for a new operetta; however, upon hearing that Trentini had been signed to star in the show, Herbert declined to work on the project.  Arthur Hammerstein was looking for a replacement for Herbert and learned of a well-regarded and classically trained composer. Based on this referral, Friml was given the opportunity to write the score for The Firefly (1912.46), and he started a brilliant career.

He wrote a number of operettas, including High Jinks (1913.34), Katinka (1915.29), You’re in Love (1917.05), Kitty Darlin’ (1917.27), Sometime (1918.30), Tumble In (1919.06), June Love (1921.09), The Blue Kitten (1922.02), The Wild Rose (1926.34), The White Eagle (1927.65) and Luana (1930.26).

Friml’s greatest contributions came in three shows in the mid-1920’s:  Rose-Marie (1924.28), The Vagabond King (1925.32) and The Three Musketeers (1928.12).

Both Sigmund Romberg’s New Moon and Friml’s The Three Musketeers were hits in 1928 but marked the end of the success of American operettas.  

After 1934 and into his nineties, Friml spent his time playing the piano in concert and composing serious music.