Arizona Lady

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Arizona Lady is an operetta in two acts by Hungarian composer Emmerich Kálmán. The libretto was written by Alfred Grünwald and Gustav Beer. It premiered, as a broadcast in Munich on 1 January 1954, and on stage in Bern, at the Stadttheater, on 14 February 1954. Left unfinished at the time of Emmerich Kalman's death, it had been completed by his son, Charles Kalman. It was given its American premiere, in a new English translation by Gerald Frantzen and Hersh Glagov, by Chicago Folks Operetta in July 2010, at Stage 773 in Chicago, Illinois.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, January 1, 1954
(Conductor: Werner Schmidt-Boelcke )
Lona Farrell soprano Esther Réthy
Nelly Nettleton soprano Brigitte Mira
Roy Dexter tenor Herbert Ernst Groh
Sheriff Harry Sullivan baritone Benno Kusche


The plot, set in the 1920s, concerns a Hungarian woman, Lona Farrell, whose father had emigrated to the US to search for gold. She now runs the Sunshine Ranch in Arizona. As the show begins, she fires her foreman, Jim Slaughter, for having tried to kiss her, and hires a stranger, Roy Dexter from Colorado, despite the concerns of Sheriff Harry Sullivan, who suspects that "Roy Dexter" may actually be the notorious outlaw, Burt Morton. But there is one condition on Roy's employment; he must never even mention the word "love" to Lona; she's had enough of that. Despite that, the sexual tension between Lona and Roy is manifest from the beginning.

Arizona Lady is a temperamental filly owned by Lola, and part of the foreman's job is to ride her at the big race in the Arizona State Fair. Roy succeeds in taming Arizona Lady, but is thrown in the race because the girth of his saddle has been cut by Jim Slaughter, who wins the race riding Mexican Cavalier, owned by the wealthy Lopez Ibanez. As a result of a bet on the race, Lona is now engaged to Sheriff Sullivan. At their engagement party, Bonita, a hired dancer from the Paradise Bar, identifies Roy as Burt Morton, and Roy is carted off to jail as news arrives that Arizona Lady has been stolen.

In jail, Roy meets the drunken vagabond Algernon Galahed Bentschley, who leads him to a tunnel he has dug that leads, not only out of the jail, but across the border into Mexico. They proceed to the Paradise Bar, which straddles the border; on the left side, there is Prohibition, on the right, Mexico and freedom. The Sheriff turns up, and Roy says he will cross the line back into Arizona to surrender to him, but only if he can have ten minutes to speak to Lona alone. He explains that his name truly is not "Roy Dexter"—but it is not "Burt Morton", either. He is really known as the "Colorado Kid", and he has long been pursuing Burt Morton, who killed his father. The Sheriff reenters, and tells Roy that he is free to go, that Jim Slaughter, who was the real Burt Morton, has been arrested, along with Sr. Ibanez, and that Arizona Lady has been recovered. Lona asks Roy to stay, but he says that he wants no payment or reward, but that if there is one thing he wants to take away from the Sunshine Ranch, it is Arizona Lady. She agrees to let the filly go.

Three months later, the whole cast visits Kentucky, where the Derby is about to run. Lona and the Sheriff are not married yet, but make another bet; if Arizona Lady wins this time, Lona will marry the Sheriff at once. The horse does indeed win, but Sheriff Sullivan, recognizing that Lona is really in love with "Roy", declares that the wedding must go on, only with a slight change of bridegroom.

In a comic subplot, Nellie Nettleton, proprietor of a mobile general store, and young Chester Kingsbury, Jr., the son of a meat-packing millionaire who has sent him to the Sunshine Ranch to toughen him up, deal with money troubles and with Nellie's problems caused by the fact that her sister, Magnolia, has told her (Magnolia's) fiancé that her (Magnolia's) illegitimate baby is really Nellie's.


  • Andrew Lamb. "Kálmán, Emmerich". In Deane L. Root. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
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