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Gipsy Love

Cover to NDR cast recording


A romantic operetta in 3 acts. Music by Franz Lehár: Book and lyrics by A.M. Willner and Robert Bodanzky.

Carltheater, Vienna - 8 January, 1910
Globe Theatre, Broadway - 17 October, 1911 (31 perfs) - (Book & lyrics by Harry B. and Robert B. Smith)
Daly's Theatre, London - 1 June, 1912 (Book and lyrics by Basil Hood and Adrian Ross)



In Siebenbürgen, a town on the river Czerna, near the Romanian border with early nineteenth century Hungary, a storm is breaking as, outside the hunting lodge of the landowner Dragotin, his daughter Zorika appears, dressed in Romanian peasant garb, with wild flowers in her hair, and looking decidedly dishevelled. Then, as the storm dies away, the skies brighten, and the sound of a violin is heard. The player is Józsi, a gipsy fiddler, and he apologises for interrupting Zorika's thoughts, but today is the day of the party to celebrate Zorika's engagement to Jonel Bolescu, Józsi's legitimate half-brother, and Józsi will be providing the music.

The gipsy boy is deferential to the daughter of the local landowner, but Zorika is a democratic girl, and she is happy to let a conversation develop. Józsi talks lyrically to her about the love that she will soon be enjoying with her fiancé, but his words speak of feelings that, in fact, Zorika has never experienced when she is with Jonel. Józsi talks to her of a fairy-tale garden of flowers and love and suggests that they walk there hand in hand. Zorika has to pull herself together to remember her duty towards her fiancé.

Jonel arrives for the engagement party, decked out in a splendid Boyar costume and accompanied by army officers and other guests, to be welcomed happily by the elderly widower Dragotin. Being an outdoor girl, Zorika has insisted on holding her engagement party out-of-doors and, when she appears with her maids of honour, Jonel offers her a bunch of wild roses. Zorika, her mind in a turmoil, refuses the flowers and insists that Jonel has yet to prove that he is the right man for her. Then, spurred on by the magic tones of Józsi's violin, she throws Jonel's roses in the river. The assembled guests are horrified, but the neighbouring landowner Ilona von Körösháza backs up Zorika's right to decide for herself. A woman has every right to put men in their place and she herself does it frequently

Zorika knows that, when she finally gives Jonel the traditional engagement kiss, it will be purely at her father's bidding and not out of any feeling of affection and, as Józsi wishes the future bride and groom well, he offers them a gipsy warning of ill-luck if that first kiss should take place before nightfall. The guests go in to supper, leaving Dragotin's niece Jolán trying to persuade the Mayor's shy young son Kajetán to admit that he really loves her. Fortunately Ilona von Körösháza is on hand to give Jolán some practical demonstrations of the art of wooing.

Zorika soon finds herself disgusted with the stuffy company at the party and she quietly slips away from the house and her guests, only to run into Józsi, lingering outside. The gipsy tells Zorika that, now the moon is out, she may safely kiss Jonel but Zorika is fed up with Jonel and everything he represents, and longs to be as free as Józsi. She begs Józsi to take her to the enchanted garden he spoke of and gives him her hand, which he kisses passionately.

As the sounds of merriment from the house build up, Ilona appears to ask Józsi to play his violin for them. He does so, counting his success with Zorika and, when Jonel comes in search of his engagement kiss, Zorika, her mind and heart in a whirl, refuses him. In her confusion, she remembers a superstition told her by her nurse, telling that anyone drinking from the River Czerna on Annunciation Eve will see into the future. She bends down and drinks from the water. She falls asleep as the glow-worms and fireflies dance around about and mysterious voices call to her in the darkness.


Zorika's vision takes her into the future and she sees herself a few years hence on a gipsy encampment on Ilona von Körösházy's estate. Józsi enters with Zorika and calls for Mihály, the innkeeper, who cannot believe his eyes at seeing Józsi returning from Hungary after two years' absence. Weddings and funerals have not been the same without Józsi's violin playing, and he is warmly welcomed back into the encampment.

Zorika clearly feels deeply about Józsi, but his conversations with Mihály make it clear that he regards her purely as a passing fancy. After all, Ilona herself has always shown an interest in him, and there are plenty of other gipsy girls to welcome him back with practical expressions of delight.

Ilona is giving a party in the local inn that evening, and Zorika suggests that it might make a memorable night for a gipsy wedding between herself and Józsi. The gipsies move off to prepare for the occasion as Zorika clings excitedly to Józsi and muses on the twists of fate that have brought her from being a girl dressed magnificently in velvet and silk but knowing nothing about love to this wild and abandoned existence.

Now Ilona appears in hunting costume, accompanied by Dragotin, who has come to join the party. Old Dragotin is trying to impress the free-living lady with his potential as a lover and overcome her doubts about his virility, but Ilona reckons that she knows the only recipe for eternal youth.

Jolan and Kajetán arrive, seeking accommodation at the inn. They have been married for more than three years, and Kajetán is pushing a pram in which sit a small boy and girl. He is obviously finding marriage harder work than he had imagined and Jolán has turned out a decidedly bossy little wife. Ilona and Józsi obviously have eyes very much for each other and Ilona finds the idea of Józsi settling down to married life a humorous one indeed. Józsi is strongly drawn to her, but she runs off as Zorika appears dressed for the gipsy wedding ceremony and Józsi coolly confirms his readiness for the wedding. His violin begins to play, as the voice of Jonel is heard calling romantically through the night. Jonel asks Zorika why she has rejected him and begs her to come back to him, but Józsi's violin playing continues to hold her in its power.

Mihály summons all his serving girls to prepare for the party and the gipsy orchestra starts playing, as Ilona tells her guests of the gipsy wedding that is to be part of the evening's entertainment. Seeing her father, Zorika goes to him, but he denies her. He does not have a gipsy daughter. Ilona tells her that she must dance and sing for them, but Zorika makes a poor effort at being a gipsy. Then bells are heard ringing and she declares her intention to get married in church, but Józsi treats the idea with contempt. A gipsy wedding is good enough for him, he says, and he produces a red scarf that he says will bind them together. For Zorika it is not enough, and she asks Józsi to tell her that he really loves her. Zorika, knowing that she can never love in gipsy style, turns on her heels and flees.


While Zorika has been looking into the future, the party for her engagement to Jonel has continued at Dragotin's hunting lodge. Jonel looks out and sees the figure of Zorika, lying asleep by the river, and longs for her pledge of love.

Helped by the party and by the practical Ilona, Jolán has finally managed to tie up matters for her marriage to Kajetán, and they have been listening to Dragotin recalling the days when he had a reputation as a lady-killer. His reputation is a little dusty now and Ilona continues to keep him at bay without too much trouble, viewing the whole proceedings with an air of cynicism until the champagne brings out all her wild gipsy instincts.

The men clamour round her, longing to know if she will reward one of them with her favours. She looks pointedly at Józsi, but he has had enough of this company. These people are not his people and he wants only to return to the gipsy world he knows. As he leaves, Zorika rouses from her sleep, and Jonel hurries to her side. As he opens his arms to her, she declares that she is his and will devote her entire life to him. Not for her the vagabond life and vagabond love of the gipsy folk.

In the first London production, for which Lehár wrote some additional numbers, the events of Act 2 were treated as reality rather than a vision of the future. The role of Zorika was renamed Ilona, and the role of Ilona rechristened Lady Babby. The name Zorika was given to a subsidiary role.
The above synopsis includes the song and csárdás `Hör' ich Cymbalklänge', originally an independent Lehár composition and added to the score of Zigeunerliebe only at a much later date.

Synopsis taken from - Gänzl's Book of the Musical Theatre ISBN 0-370-31157-4

Revised English version by Adam Carstairs

In the latest version of the world-famous operetta, the setting is Victorian England. Antonio, a passionate young gipsy, loves Miranda - the high-born fiancée of a young nobleman. She elopes with Antonia, but her romantic dreams are soon shattered and reprisals are threatened against the whole Romany tribe. He sacrifices his hopes of happiness for the sake of his people - and Miranda. Another gloriously melodious score from the pen of the world's best-loved operetta composer.


6 female, 8 male

Peter Dragotin
Jonel Bolescu
Dimitreanu, the Mayor
Kajetán Dimetreanu, his son
Józsi, a gipsy
Mihály, an innkeeper
Moschu, Dragoon's valet
Zorika, Dragotin's daughter
Jolán, Dragotin's niece
Ilona von Körösháza, a landowner

Boyars, Hungarian soldiers, Romanian and Hungarian countryfolk, gipsies, gipsy musicians, waitresses, village children

Musical Numbers

  1. Overture - Orchestra
  2. Introduktion und Auftritt - Heissa, heissa! - (Zorika)
  3. Duett - So sprach noch niemals ein Mann zu mir - (Zorika, Józsi)
  4. Ensemble, Lied und Csárdás - Se traska, liebe Gäste - (Zorika, Ilona, Frau von Kerém, Jolán, Jonel, Józsi, Dragotin, Moschu, Chor)
  5. Terzett - Zuerst sucht man Gelegenheit (Ilona, Jolán, Kajetán)
  6. Finale Act I - Da habt Ihr nun den Mund voller Pracht
  7. Szene und Lied - Kutya lánczos (Zorika, Józsi, Milhály)
  8. Zigeuner-Marsch - Endlich, Józsi (Zorika, Józsi, Milhály, Chor)
  9. Lied - War einst ein Mädel (Zorika, Józssi, Mihály)
  10. Duett - Ich weiß ein Rezept, ja ganz famos (Ilona, Dragotin)
  11. Duett - Liebes Männchen folge mir (Jolán, Kajetán)
  12. Duett - Ha ha ha ha! Das fin ich köstlich! (Ilona, Jozsi)
  13. Duett - Laß dich bezaubern (Zorika, Jonel)
  14. Finale Act II - Vorwärts Mädeln, rührt die Hände!
  15. Walzer-Intermezzo
  16. Reminiszenz - Gib mir das Zweiglein (Jonel)
  17. Marschterzett - Lieber Onkel hör mich nur an - (Jolán, Kajetán, Dragotin)
  18. Terzett - Józsi, diese Damen, die wüßten gar gern - (Ilona, Frau v. Kérem, Józsi, Damenchor)
  19. Lied und Csárdás Hör' ich Zimbalklänge (Ilona)
  20. Schlußszene Ich bin ein Zigeunerkind (Ilona, Józsi, Chor)


flute, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, percussion, harp, strings. Professional Version: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, 3 percussion, tarogato, cimbalom, harp, stage music, strings

Adaptation for amateur performance by Ronald Hanmer; new book and lyrics by Phil Park