Lutz, (Wilhelm) Meyer
- Kurt Gänzl
Lutz, (Wilhelm) Meyer (1829–1903), conductor and composer, was born on 19 May 1829 at Münnerstadt, near Kissingen, Germany, the son of a music professor, Joseph Lutz (1801–1879), and his wife, Magdalena (1809–1862). His elder brother later became Baron Johann Lutz, prime minister of Bavaria, under ‘mad’ King Ludwig. Lutz studied with his father, then in Würzburg, and he first visited Britain, as a pianist, in 1846. He returned in 1848 to settle, and worked as a church organist and a theatrical conductor, notably, from 1850 to 1855, at London's Surrey Theatre. His first original stage composition, the one-act The Charmed Harp, was produced there in 1852.
For many years Lutz conducted provincial concerts and touring opera troupes, several headed by the tenor Eliot Galer, who was in 1859 responsible for mounting, at Liverpool, Lutz's opera Zaida, or, The Pearl of Granada, composed to a libretto by the company's bass, Oliver Summers. Galer also produced Lutz's Blonde or Brunette (1862), Cousin Kate (1863), and Felix (1865) in London, where the striving musician ('a graceful composer in the school of Auber'; The Era, 1865) was also represented by the cantatas Herne the Hunter (Crystal Palace, 1862) and King Christmas (Oxford music hall, 1863), and material for the Christy Minstrels.
In February 1869 Lutz was appointed music director at the recently opened Gaiety Theatre, and there, over the next quarter of a century, the plump, bearded, and bespectacled musician, 'always delightful and mostly disagreeable' (Evening News, Sydney, 1903), established himself as a personality in the British theatre, conducting the operas, operettas, opéras bouffes, and burlesques mounted under John Hollingshead's management and simultaneously compiling the scores for the Gaiety's pasticcio entertainments. These scores occasionally included some original melodies, but Lutz's rather politely academic stage music was heard mostly on the occasions of his own Gaiety benefit programmes. In 1881 his operatic version of Black-Eyed Susan, All in the Downs, was given such a performance. Lutz continued to attempt lofty themes and strains—Christine Nilsson performed his scena Xenia the Sclavonian Maiden (1869), and his cantata The Legend of the Lys was sung at the Covent Garden Promenade Concerts in 1873—but he had altogether more success with the light, dancing melodies for a couple of little shows, On Condition (1882) and Posterity (1884), performed by Lila Clay's all-ladies troupe, and with such ditties as Alice Atherton's popular 'Eyes of English Blue'.
In 1885, when George Edwardes took over the management of the Gaiety, pasticcio burlesque there gave way to shows with new songs—songs written in a light, danceable, ‘popular’ style. Lutz at first assembled these scores piecemeal from various local songwriters, but he soon switched to providing virtually all the required music himself. Between 1886 and 1893 he composed for Monte Cristo Jr, Miss Esmeralda, Frankenstein, Faust-up-to-Date, Ruy Blas and the Blasé Roué, Carmen up-to-Date, Cinder-Ellen up-too-Late, and Don Juan a body of efficient, tulle-weight tunes and songs which served prettily to illustrate the comic high-jinks and girlie antics of the ‘new burlesque’ genre. Most of the most successful songs heard in these shows were interpolated numbers, but perhaps the biggest hit of the new burlesque era was actually composed by Lutz. The 'Pas de quatre', a jolly barn-dance tune written for Faust-up-to-Date, was still popular fifty years later.
Lutz was connected, by his marriage on 19 July 1856 to Elizabeth Cook (b. 1835), to several important British theatrical families. Elizabeth's brothers, the bass Thomas Aynsley Cook (1833–1894) and the baritone John Furneaux Cook (1839?–1903), and her unmarried sister, Alice Aynsley Cook (1850?–1938), had high-profile careers in English opera and musical theatre. Aynsley Cook married Harriet Farrell Payne (1830–1880), an operatic contralto and a daughter of the famous Payne family of pantomimists, and their daughter, Annie, became Mrs Eugene Goossens jun. After Elizabeth Cook's death, Lutz married, on Jersey, to avoid the prohibition against marrying a deceased wife's sister, Emily Cook (b. 1847?).
After his retirement from the Gaiety in 1894, Lutz continued to conduct and write songs intermittently, and he had a song featured in Edwardes's production of The Girl from Kay's just weeks before his death, at his home, 115 Edith Road, Kensington, on 31 January 1903. He was buried in St Mary's, Kensal Green. He was survived by his wife.
- K. Gänzl, The encyclopedia of the musical theatre, 2 vols. (1994)
- K. Gänzl, The British musical theatre, 2 vols. (1986)
- The Era (12 Aug 1899), 13
- CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1903)
- J. Hollingshead, Gaiety chronicles (1898)
- m. cert., 19 July 1856
- Joslin collection, Lutz MSS
- photograph, repro. in Hollingshead, Gaiety chronicles
Wealth at Death
£575 7s. 10d.: probate, 12 March 1903, CGPLA Eng. & Wales