The Student Prince – Studio Cast Recording 1952
Of all the operettas that have originated in America, The Student Prince is perhaps the most perennially popular. No season goes by without at least one professional revival touring the country, and scarcely a day passes when one of its endearing melodies is not heard somewhere. As a remarkable combination of music, plot, and atmosphere, The Student Prince is unique. Its bittersweet story is lightened with a beautiful display of Sigmund Romberg’s most enchanting music, and its grace and sentiment possess a sunny quality that few operettas approach.
Based on a play called Old Heidelberg, Romberg’s operetta opened in New York at the Jolson Theatre on December 2, 1924. Howard Marsh played the title role, and Ilse Marvenga was his Kathie. They have been succeeded by countless others on the stage, on the screen, and on the radio, and now, in this new record production, by Dorothy Kirsten of the Metropolitan Opera and Robert Rounseville of the New York City Opera Company, two artists whose captivating performance of The Merry Widow offers a bubbling souvenir of Viennese operetta.
The Viennese touch is supremely evident in The Student Prince, too, for Romberg’s music was primarily derived from that city of the waltz, the polka, and the jolly march. Romberg’s waltzes are in the direct tradition of Vienna, and his concerted numbers and incidental music, an important part of this recording, are based on the light opera school of composition, which, unlike most of today’s musical productions, kept a constant flow of melody running through the work, to enlarge upon and support the stage action.
The four acts of The Student Prince trace the design of a love affair, and throughout the plot, Romberg has generously sprinkled a series of effortless ballads that sway with the graciousness of the vanished era they depict. The charming “Golden Days,” the rousing “Drinking Song,” the sentimental “Deep in My Heart, Dear,” and the lilting “Just We Two” are as attractive a series of songs as any operetta ever boasted. The series reaches its peak in the First Act Finale, the famous “Serenade” with its hints of “moonlight on Heidelberg town” and youthful romance. In none of his other works, not even New Moon or The Desert Song, did Romberg weave such a compelling fabric of melodic sentiment.
For this presentation, produced by Goddard Lieberson, an outstanding cast of singers has been assembled to do justice to the score. Miss Kirsten, already famous for her exceptionally sympathetic interpretations of the songs of Kern and Gershwin, and winning new fame for her singing in the title role of The Merry Widow, brings a vibrant voice and winning personality to the role of the heroine, a part widely divergent from the tragic roles of her glamorous operatic career. Mr. Rounseville, who sang Danilo in The Merry Widow with Miss Kirsten, is one of the most brilliant tenors of the New York City Opera Company, and won unusual acclaim for his fine portrayal of the protagonist in the screen version of The Tales of Hoffmann. In support of the two stars are Genevieve Warner and Clifford Harvuot of the Metropolitan Opera Company, Wesley Dalton, Frank Rogier, Brenda Miller, and other notable singers. The chorus and orchestra are conducted by Lehman Engel, the composer, arranger, and conductor who directed the music for such Columbia record productions as The Merry Widow, Pal Joey, Girl Crazy, Babes in Arms, and many others.
Together these artists build a shimmering picture of the gentle Heidelberg of a vanished era, with its walls and towers covered with ivy, its inn-yards in the moonlight, its rollicking students and guileless maidens. With Romberg’s masterly score at their service they create an atmosphere of warmth and friendship during student days that is completely endearing. The complete score has never before been available on records, and it is revealed as a genuinely integrated work, progressing logically through its numbers to unfold a brilliant overall conception. It moves along with spirit and dash through its marches and interludes, sweeps joyously through the waltzes, and slows sweetly into romantic ballads where they are required. The product of one of Romberg’s most prolific periods, it is also one of his finest, most representative works. In musical content and variety it unquestionably outranks his later works, in originality it surpasses the adaptation from Schubert that became Blossom Time, and in the realm of unaffected romance it is seriously challenged only by The Desert Song and New Moon, neither of them works of such widespread popularity.
In The Student Prince a magic formula was uncovered, so effective as to seem not a formula at all, and so elusive that no one has since discovered quite the same balance. Music, youth, romance, the tradition of a proud old university – all these were blended with an extraordinary skill to produce one of the operetta classics of our time.
– from the original liner notes
Music by Sigmund Romberg
Lyrics by Dorothy Donnelly
Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Lehman Engel