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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Romberg: The Student Prince

08/06/2017 1:00 pm
08/06/2017 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

In the course of my summer programming, I always try to include a sentimental Central European-style operetta. The Student Prince (1924) is absolutely oozing with nostalgia for bygone "golden days" passed in the quaint old German university town of Heidelberg. This operetta, however, is American in origin. Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951) was Hungarian by birth. He studied in Vienna, then came to the United States in 1909. He spent his career as a composer entirely in New York City. He wrote a string of hit shows for the Shubert Brothers impresarios. The most successful of them all was The Student Prince. It had a fabulous first run of 608 performances, the longest of any Romberg show. It has been filmed at least twice and revived onstage in various adulterated versions.

It's hard to believe that until 1989 Romberg's score in its original orchestration had never again been heard following the premiere Broadway production. A musically complete concert production was recorded in the UK for release through the British Jay record label in 1990. It returned to the arrangements made by Romberg's principal orchestrator, Emil Gerstenberger. That studio recording was based on a staged revival by New York City Opera. John Owen Edwards conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra and Ambrosian Chorus. The recording was picked up stateside by Musical Heritage Society. That MHS reissue on two CDs I have broadcast twice before, on Sunday, August 18, 1996 and August 20, 2006. The 1989 British recording has been superseded by a German concert production recorded as broadcast from the Cologne studios of WDR West German Radio in 2012. German speaking singers sang the operetta in its original American English libretto. The American accents sound authentic even in the spoken word passages. The American conductor John Mauceri, a historian of the American lyric theater, directed the orchestra and chorus of West German Radio Cologne. The German classical record label CPO issued its own musically complete Student Prince on a pair of silver discs in 2016.