»A Birthday Present from Our Dear God«
Following his first reading of the libretto, Franz Lehár himself wrote of the igniting sparks inspiring him to write his Paganini operetta: »Already the first scene with the fascinating violin playing from afar got me thinking. I continued to read – and music streamed toward me from every character, from every situation. The ideas flowed to me in such fullness, quite literally overpowered me, and forced me to take up the pen, so that within a few hours I had the entire sketch of the first act lying finished before me. That I call a good libretto!« Since this inspirational thriller took place during the night prior to his fifty-third birthday on 30 April 1923, the composer viewed his work as »a birthday present from our dear God.« And divine providence had a second present ready for Lehár: an encounter with Richard Tauber. The singer performed at the Salzburg Festival in 1924. Lehár invited him to his Ischl villa and presented his Paganini score-in-progress to him. The singer was enthused and remained in Ischl. Lehár had found the interpreter corresponding to the ideal always nurtured in his imagination and Tauber the composer capable of rendering audible his special qualities. The first great »Tauber song« was »Gern hab ich die Frau’n geküsst,« and right during the first performance the audience demanded that it be repeated five times.