Rudolf Friml (December 7, 1879 – November 12, 1972) was a composer of operettas, musicals and songs, as well as a pianist. After musical training and a brief performing career in his native Prague, Friml moved to the United States where he became a composer. His best-known works are Rose Marie and The Vagabond King, each of which enjoyed success on Broadway and in London and were adapted for film.
Born in Prague, at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and now capital of the Czech Republic, Friml showed aptitude for music at an early age. His abilities gained him acceptance into the Prague Conservatory where he studied music composition with Antonín Dvořák. He completed the six-year course in three years. While studying at the conservatory he began to compose light songs and airs. After graduation he took a position as accompanist to violinist Jan Kubelik. He toured with Kubelik twice in the United States and at the end of the second tour remained there to compose. He made his American piano debut at Carnegie Hall in 1904 and premiered his Piano Concerto in B-Major in 1906 with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Walter Damrosch. He settled for a brief time in Los Angeles where he married Mathilda Baruch (1909). They had two children, Charles Rudolf (Jr.) (1910) and Marie Lucille (1911). After a divorce, he later married Kay Wong.
One of the most popular theatrical forms in the early decades of the 20th century in America was the operetta, and its most famous composer was Irish-born Victor Herbert. It was announced in 1912 that operetta diva Emma Trentini would be starring in a new operetta on Broadway by Herbert with lyricist Otto Harbach entitled The Firefly. Shortly before the writing of the operetta, Trentini appeared in a special performance of Herbert's Naughty Marietta conducted by Herbert himself. When Trentini refused to sing "Italian Street Song" for the encore, an enraged Herbert stormed out of the orchestra pit refusing any further work with Trentini.