More theme music

In comments on my posting about classical compositions — Liszt, Rossini, Prokofiev — used as theme music in radio and television, two further cases: the titan Wagner and the little-known von Reznicek.

Wagner and Captain Video. From Robert Coren, The Flying Dutchman and the ground-breaking sci-fi tv series Captain Video and his Video Rangers. On the show, from Wikipedia:

Captain Video and His Video Rangers is an American science fiction television series, which was aired on the DuMont Television Network, and was the first series of its kind on American television.

The series aired between June 27, 1949 and April 1, 1955, originally Monday through Saturday at 7 p.m. ET, and then Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET. A separate 30-minute spinoff series, The Secret Files of Captain Video, aired Saturday mornings, alternating with Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, from September 5, 1953 to May 29, 1954 for a total of 20 episodes.

… The Captain had a teen-age companion who was known only as the Video Ranger. Captain Video received his orders from the Commissioner of Public Safety, whose responsibilities took in the entire solar system as well as human colonies on planets around other stars. Captain Video was the first adventure hero explicitly designed (by DuMont’s idea-man Larry Menkin) for early live television. “I TOBOR” the robot was an important, semi-regular character on the program, and represents the first appearance of a robot in live televised science fiction; the character’s name was actually supposed to be “ROBOT I”, but the stencil with its name was applied to its costume backwards.

… Even for its time, the quality of the show is often considered crude or low-budget, owing much to the fact that the show was done live and DuMont had a meager budget to work with.

The show’s theme song was Richard Wagner’s “Overture to The Flying Dutchman”.

Extremely briefly, on the Wagner:

Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), WWV 63, is a German-language opera [first performed 1843], with libretto and music by Richard Wagner.

Audio of the overture on YouTube here.

von Resnicek and Sergeant Preston. From Joe Foster:

My favorite radio program in the early 1950s was Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Sergeant Preston of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police was assisted in his relentless pursuit of lawbreakers by the Great Lead Dog, Yukon King, and they did it to the theme music from E N von Reznicek’s overture to Donna Diana.

More on Sgt. Preston. On radio:

Challenge of the Yukon was a radio series that began on Detroit’s station WXYT and was an example of a Northern genre story. The series was first heard on February 3, 1938. The title changed from Challenge of the Yukon to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon in November 1951, and remained under that name through the end of the series and into television.

… The theme music was Emil von Reznicek’s overture to Donna Diana, an old opera, though the overture remains a concert staple to this day. The show’s episodes ended with the official pronouncement, Well, King, this case is closed. (link)

And on television:

In 1955, the same year the radio show ended, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon premiered as a television series. Richard Simmons starred as Sgt. Preston, and was supported by Yukon King and Rex, now played by real animals. The dog cast as King was not a husky, however, but a large Alaskan Malamute. (link)

Now, the music, from Wikipedia:

Donna Diana is a comic opera in three acts by Emil von Reznicek. The libretto, written by the composer, is based on a German translation by Carl August West (Joseph Schreyvogel) titled Donna Diana oder Stolz und Liebe of the Spanish comedy El desdén con el desdén by Agustín Moreto y Cavana.

… The overture served as the theme for the American radio (1947–1955) series Challenge of the Yukon, which later migrated to the TV series (1955–1958) Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. It was used in the 1950s on the BBC’s Children’s Hour by Stephen King-Hall for his talks on current affairs.

The opera seems to have survived primarily through its overture as theme music.

The overture is available on YouTube here.

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