Has a seventy year old woman ever grabbed you in the aisle of the Gristede’s market on Broadway and 84th St. (long gone) and had you waltzing down the aisle toward the tomatoes?
If your answer is NO then you missed out. I was so grabbed just over thirty year ago by a very youthful and glamorous Marta Eggerth. Marta was a neighbor and a lovely presence at performances thorughout New York, whether or not she was singing. She was but a generation removed from composers like Lehar and Puccini. She favored their work and many others in Vienna and New York. She was the widow of the Hungarian heart-throbÂ tenor Jan Kiepura Â (1902-1966)Â Â His death didn’t stop her from many years of recording and appearances as an operettaÂ heroine. Marta Eggerth was making recordings well into her nineties. These are in no way old lady apologia-she was glamorous and musical and she had fun and so did you.
Marta Eggerth may have been the last “real deal”. Meaning she had learned from theÂ people who had learned from the composer. I suspect she had plenty to say to composers Robert Stolz and Franz Lehar, two more operetta superstars in whose works she starred.
Marta Eggerth died yesterday at the age of 101. No doubt her date book was filled for the next two or three years.
Eggerth was a Hungarian whose life took her to New York during World War II. Jan Kiepura flourished at the Metropolitan Opera. Marta starred on Broadway and made two pictures at MGM with Judy Garland. In fact, her legacy is in cinema. She and Kiepura had been movie stars in pre-World War II Eeurope. They were Fred and Ginger, Tracy and Hepburn and Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor combined. Their films have negligible scripts and delicious music, and twoÂ gorgeous leads.
If Gristede’s was still there onÂ Broadway and 84th St., and I still lived in New York, Â I’d never be able to pass by without a smile at te touch of Hollywood and Budapest I experienced waltzing towardÂ the vegetables with this glamorous lady.