Student Prince

he Student Prince In Old Heidelberg is an operetta with music by Sigmund Romberg. Book and lyrics by Dorothy Donnelly. Based on Wilhelm Meyer-Förster’s play Alt Heidelberg. It opened on December 2, 1924, at Jolson’s 59th Street Theatre on Broadway. The show was the most successful of Romberg’s works, running for 608 performances, the longest-running Broadway show of the 1920s. Ernst Lubitsch made a famous silent film of the operetta titled The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg and starring Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer. The stage work was revived twice on Broadway — once in the 1930s and again in the 1940s. In recent years, the operetta has been performed each summer at the Heidelberg Castle Festival. “Drinking Song,” with its rousing chorus of “Drink! Drink! Drink!” was especially popular with theatergoers in 1924, as the United States was in the midst of Prohibition.

The operetta contains some of the most beautiful, yet gruelling, tenor arias in the operetta repertoire, notably the Serenade (“Overhead the moon is beaming”). Mario Lanza made many of the songs famous all over again with his singing on the soundtrack of the 1954 MGM film The Student Prince. Composer Nicholas Brodszky and lyricist Paul Francis Webster wrote three new songs for the film. Two of these songs – “I’ll Walk With God” and “Beloved” – became closely associated with the tenor. Although Lanza’s voice was heard in the film, he did not play the Prince on screen. That role went to British actor Edmund Purdom, who mimed to the tenor’s recordings.

In The Student Prince, Karl, the prince of the (fictitious) German kingdom of Karlsberg, attempts unsuccessfully to hide his identity at his new school in Heidelberg. He soon makes friends and falls in love with his innkeeper’s daughter, Kathie, who returns his affection. But when Prince Karl’s grandfather (the king) dies, he must return to Karlsberg and take up his role as the new king. As king, Karl faces the reality that he must honor an arranged marriage with Princess Johanna, but his true love will always be Kathie.

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