Imre Kalman's frivolous muse: who was the woman who inspired the maestro to create Silva and Maritsa
Imre Kalman's frivolous muse: who was the woman who inspired the maestro to create Silva and Maritsa
Countess Agnes Esterhazy

Typically Hungarian biographers composer Imre Kalman they always write about his two marriages, and the woman, who for many years was his muse and inspired the creation of the most famous works, is mentioned in passing. Name Agnes Esterhazy it is known mainly to a narrow circle of admirers of Kalman's work, although it was she who became the prototype of the heroines of the operettas Silva (Queen of Czardash), Princess of the Circus and Maritza.

Silent movie star Agnes Esterhazy Countess Agnes Esterhazy

Agnes was born into an aristocratic family that united two noble families - Branicki and Esterhazy. A complete surprise for her family was the decision of a young aristocrat to devote her life to art - to become an actress. Despite their objections, the stubborn and eccentric heiress of the ancient family insisted on her own.

Muse of composer Imre Kalman Agnes Esterhazy

Agnes Esterhazy became a silent film star in the 1920s. ("The Prague Student", "Paganini in Venice", etc.). Film critics spoke approvingly of her temperament and talent, and Imre Kalman said that "cinema is her vocation, not a means of life." But Agnes went down in history not only as an actress, but also as the muse of the great composer, who inspired him to a new creative takeoff.

Silent movie star Agnes Esterhazy Agnes Esterhazy

At the time of his acquaintance with Agnes Kalman was already a fairly well-known composer, but all his masterpieces were still ahead. Several of his operettas failed, the maestro was in a creative crisis. He lived in a civil marriage with Paola Dvořák, a woman who played an important role in his creative development. Kalman owed her a lot, besides, she was seriously ill and needed care, so he could not leave her, despite the fact that their feelings had already cooled down. According to one version, it was Paola who introduced her husband to Agnes. However, the circumstances of their acquaintance still remain a mystery.

Muse of composer Imre Kalman Agnes Esterhazy

Agnes was hardly suitable for the role of a respectable wife and mother of the family. When they first met, she was 16 years old, although the opinions of biographers differ here. But the fact that a cheerful, witty and eccentric girl conquered the composer at first sight, they are unanimous. Kalman lost his head and felt an incredible creative upsurge. In a letter to his father, he confessed: “I am full of melodies. They burst out of me like volcanic lava. I think I will explode with them soon. " According to one of the assumptions, Kalman wrote "The Queen of the Czardash" ("Silva") immediately after meeting Agnes. And it was she who became the prototype of the main character.

Countess Agnes Esterhazy

There is no doubt about the composer's feelings for Agnes Esterhazy, but the question of whether she reciprocated her feelings cannot be answered unequivocally. Many contemporaries characterized her as a capricious and frivolous person who played with the maestro's feelings and lost his trust due to her inconstancy. Others claim that she felt sincere tenderness and affection for him.

Agnes Esterhazy Silent movie star Agnes Esterhazy

Kalman's family dreamed of his marriage to a representative of an ancient aristocratic family, but Esterkhazi were categorically against the marriage of their daughter with the son of a ruined merchant of Jewish origin. At the insistence of her family, Agnes married an elderly wealthy Baron von Getzendorff. But this did not become an obstacle to their relationship with Kalman.

Muse of composer Imre Kalman Agnes Esterhazy Composer Imre Kalman

Since 1920, Agnes began acting in films and became a real star.But when sound cinema replaced silent cinema, the actress could not take her place in it - the strong Hungarian accent in her German prevented. The last time she appeared on the screen was in 1943, then she tried her hand at the theater, but she failed to achieve the same success on stage.

Muse of composer Imre Kalman Agnes Esterhazy

Agnes also inspired Kalman to create the operettas Maritza and Princess of the Circus. He endowed Maritsa with the character traits and manners of his muse, put into her lips the words and phrases that Agnes uttered. Thanks to these two operettas, the composer gained fame and became rich. They began to call him "the king of operetta" and "emperor of Vienna".

Silent movie star Agnes Esterhazy

After Paola's death, Kalman was ready to marry Agnes. She divorced her husband and, it would seem, everything went to a happy ending. But a few weeks after the death of Paola Kalman, they began to see a young emigrant Vera Makinskaya in the company. Most likely, the reason for his separation from Agnes was her unwillingness to have children and devote herself to the family, and the 47-year-old composer dreamed of offspring. In addition, his muse, according to rumors, had an affair with a cameraman, and Kalman could not forgive her infidelity.

Imre Kalman with his wife Vera and children

Kalman married Vera and, as he dreamed, became the father of three children. Agnes married Austrian actor Fritz Schulz. Many said that after parting with Agnes, the composer left not only the muse, but also his genius - there were no more outstanding works. He dedicated his last masterpiece - "The Violet of Montmartre" - to Vera, but Agnes was again guessed in the main character. And Vera Makinskaya began to be called the woman who took away from the music of Imre Kalman.

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