Robert Freistadtl (Frey)

Vienna, 1889-1948, London

Freistadtl came from Vienna’s circle of wealthy Jewish families, having inherited a successful textile factory. His wife, Charlotte Elisabeth Cohn, was from a similar background with her father, Paul Cohn, Austria’s General Consul in Peru. Little is known about Freistadtl’s biography or his musical education. He appears to have enjoyed earlier successes in London and, as a result, composed under the name of Robert Frey. A planned Max Reinhardt Berlin opening of his operetta Die Wirtin von Venedig (The Landlady of Venice) after Goldoni’s Mirandolina was foiled by the Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933. Yet it enjoyed a successful opening and run at Vienna’s Raimundtheater in 1934. The annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938 was catastrophic for the family, who managed to escape to Great Britain, where from 1940, Frey, along with thousands of refugees, was interned as an “enemy alien.” He continued to compose occasional pieces and light music, but the loss of country, identity, and opportunities as a composer overwhelmed him. He died in London exile, only three years after the end of the war.