The Desert Song was a notable 1926 Broadway operetta with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach, respectively. It opened at the Casino Theatre November 30 and ran for 465 performances . The leading man was Scottish baritone Richard Halliday and the heroine Vivienne Segal. To celebrate the centenary of Romberg’s birth (1987), the New York City Opera staged a lavish production with Richard White and Linda Michele. The Desert Song is still frequently performed and has been made into a motion picture four times: in 1929 (a lavish production with Technicolor sequences starring John Boles and Carlotta King), 1932 (as a two-reeler entitled The Red Shadow), 1943 (topically altered to have the hero fighting the Nazis), and (the best-known version) in 1953 with Kathryn Grayson and Gordon MacRae. When it was adapted for live television in 1955 (with Gale Sherwood and Nelson Eddy, and Salvatore Baccaloni imported from the Metropolitan Opera to play Ali Ben Ali) one of the writers brought in to modernize some unplayable dialogue was the young Neil Simon .
The plot, reminiscent of The Scarlet Pimpernel or Superman, concerns "The Red Shadow", a dashing rebel leader whose band of freedom fighters, the Riff, threaten the safety of a French outpost in the Moroccan desert. In reality, the Shadow is Pierre, unassuming son of French General Birabeau. Margot, a French girl soon to be married at the fort, is in love with the Red Shadow, little suspecting his true identity. Pierre, in disguise, kidnaps her in order to reveal his love for her. Eventually, when the Red Shadow is unable to battle General Birabeau face-to-face, his identity is discovered and he and Margot live happily ever after.
Apart from the title song, musical numbers include: