Oscar Straus was one of Vienna’s last red-hot waltz kings. His operettas in the first three decades of this century helped set the standard for music theater as middlebrow entertainment and have served as models even for Stephen Sondheim. A Waltz Dream was arguably his greatest hit, though its plot is unusually ironic and bittersweet for an operetta. An aristocratic lieutenant, forced into marriage with a princess, has a fling with the leader of an all-women orchestra; gradually he realizes that it’s Vienna he’s been in love with all along–and resignedly returns to his wife. (The weltschmerz so appealed to director Ernst Lubitsch that in the 30s he turned the operetta into The Smiling Lieutenant, starring Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert.) Straus was not as abundantly gifted as the more famous Strausses, but neither was he careless enough to wallow in sentimentality. There is more Puccini in his arias and duets than Lehar, and more humor than bathos. For this Light Opera Works production, authenticity-minded director Phillip Kraus and collaborator Gregg Opelka have come with a new English translation based on the original 1906 materials. The cast is headed by tenor Robert Trentham and LOW veteran Ann McMann; Timothy Shaindlin, who conducted some of LOW’s better productions of the recent past, returns. The staging is by Kraus, who always has plenty of comical tricks up his sleeve. Tonight and Saturday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 2 PM; Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University, 600 Emerson, Evanston; 708-869-6300.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rich Foreman.