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The Desert Song is an operetta with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach, inspired by the 1925 uprising of the Riffs, a group of Moroccan fighters, against French colonial rule. It was also inspired by stories of Lawrence of Arabia aiding native guerrillas. Many tales romanticizing Arab North Africa were in vogue, including Beau Geste and The Son of the Sheik.
Originally titled “Lady Fair”, after successful out-of-town tryouts in Wilmington, Delaware and Boston, Massachusetts, the original Broadway production opened at the Casino Theatre on November 30, 1926 and ran for a very successful 465 performances.
It was directed by Arthur Hurley and choreographed by Bobby Connolly. It starred Robert Halliday and Vivienne Segal. The piece was revived on Broadway in 1946 and 1973. The piece enjoyed a renaissance in the 1980s when it was played regularly by the Light Opera of Manhattan and revived by the New York City Opera. It is a popular piece for community light opera groups.
The story is a version of plots such as Superman, where a hero takes on a mild-mannered disguise to keep his true identity a secret. He loves a beautiful and spirited girl, but she loves his hero persona but does not know his real personality, which he keeps hidden under the milquetoast persona. This type of story was introduced even earlier in the tales of the Scarlet Pimpernel and Zorro.