Sunday, September 27, 2009

Engelbert Humperdinck is Dead?


I'm not talking about the pop singer from the 1960s and 1970s. His real name is Arnold Dorsey, and, at last report, he was still very much alive. He is 73 and still recording — although perhaps not as much as he used to.

But he's the one I think of when I hear the name Engelbert Humperdinck. And, for a long time, I thought it was merely a stage name that he made up. It is a memorable name, after all.

Well, it is a stage name, but Dorsey didn't make it up.

I don't remember when I learned that there was another Engelbert Humperdinck, but at some point, I did. He was a German composer who lived mostly in the 19th century and is remembered primarily for composing the opera "Hänsel und Gretel" in the early 1890s.

Born in 1854, Humperdinck suffered a severe stroke in 1912. He recovered, but his left hand was permanently paralyzed. With his son's help, he completed his final composition six years later. Then, on Sept. 26, 1921, while attending the performance of his son's first operatic production as a director, he suffered a heart attack. The next day, he suffered another heart attack, which proved to be fatal.

An interesting footnote ...

You may be, as my mother was, a fan of the 1987 movie "The Princess Bride." That film was based on a 1973 book by William Goldman.

Anyway, there is a character in the story named Prince Humperdinck. It has been suggested that Engelbert Humperdinck the German composer was the inspiration for that name, but some have said that Goldman was inspired by the Engelbert Humperdinck who is his contemporary.

As far as I know, Goldman never has confirmed which one was the actual inspiration.