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Kurt Gänzl is an institution. No one interested in musicals and operetta can’t ignore that. He is the world reference - with some few others, like Gerald Bordmann, Ken Bloom, or Andrew Lamb - for that subject. New-Zealand born, of Viennese stock, Kurt Ganzl studied law and classics at Canterbury University (MA [Hons] 1967) whilst at the same time building a career as a radio and concert vocalist. At the age of 21 he joined the New Zealand Opera Company as a basse soloist and, when that company curled up, moved to London where he soon swapped the operatic world for a life in the musical theatre. Over the next 20 years, he worked in almost every area of the musical theatre, at first as a performer, then as a talent agent and finally as a casting director both for musicals and plays in London’s West End and for musical and operatic productions in Europe, America and Australia.
In 1986 his first book on the musical theatre, the two-volume history of The British Musical Theatre, was published. Greeted as "one of the great works of cultural reference," it was awarded the Roger Machell Prize for the year’s best performing-arts book and the British Library Association’s McColvin Medal for the outstanding reference work (any subject) of its season. In the four succeeding years, he followed this with Gänzl’s Book of the Musical Theatre, commissioned as a companion volume to Kobbé’s famous opera guide, with the story of the making of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical in The Complete "Aspects of Love," and with a survey of recorded musicals, The Blackwell Guide to the Musical Theatre on Record, before retiring from the office-bound part of his double life to devote himself full-time to the compilation of The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre. This work was published in 1994, was a Dartmouth Medal honoree in 1995 and was awarded Outstanding Reference Source in 1997 by the American Library Association.
He has subsequently authored Gänzl’s Book of the Broadway Musical (1995), a pictorial history of the musical theatre under the title of Song and Dance (1995), a history of the international musical stage, The Musical : A Concise History (1997), and a 26-hour radio series based on that work which he hosted for Radio New Zealand in the same year, before returning to the Encyclopedia to prepare its new and improved edition. He just published two volumes dedicated to Emily Soldene, famous opera-buffa singer - one of the works of Gänzl’s life.
Kurt Gänzl, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE MUSICAL THEATRE, Shirmer/Gale New-York 2000 Kurt Gänzl, EMILY SOLDENE, 2 volumes, Editions Steele Roberts, Wellington 2007.
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