TORONTO—At the time of prohibition in the United States, Sigmund Romberg’s operetta “The Student Prince” featured plenty of drinking songs, merriment, and romance, making it the longest-running show on Broadway in the 1920s.
Some of its catchy songs have stayed in the musical repertoire since, such as “Deep in My Heart, Dear,” “Serenade,” “Golden Days,” “Drinking Song,” and more.
“I think the audience will come away humming a tune or two because it’s really beautiful music,” says Canadian soprano Jennifer Taverner, who plays the lead role of Kathie in the Toronto Operetta Theatre’s upcoming production.
“The Student Prince” is based on the Viennese operetta style but has a strong American feel to it, Taverner explains, adding that the music is very heartwarming.
With lighter subject matter and spoken in the local language, the operetta genre combines some of the appeal of the opera and that of the musical.
“It is the best of both worlds, where it is operatic in nature and singing style—you have to have an operatically trained voice—but it’s music theatresque. The tunes are along those lines. It has that feel of Broadway,” says Taverner.
“The Student Prince” is based on the hit play “Old Heidelberg” by German author Wilhelm Meyer-Förster.
The plot follows a young sheltered prince who comes to study at Heidelberg University in order to develop his social skills and get a taste for the ordinary life. There he befriends many young students and spends fun times at the local tavern where he meets Kathie, the innkeeper’s popular niece. The two fall in love, but in their hearts they know this romance cannot be, as the prince cannot marry a commoner.
Taverner says this theme follows the young couple throughout their relationship as reflected in their song, “Deep in My Heart, Dear.” The chorus of the song goes like this: “Our paths may sever/But I’ll remember forever/Deep in my heart, dear/I’ll always dream of you.”
“It’s a bittersweet Cinderella story, except she doesn’t get her prince in the end,” says Taverner of her character’s path.
“She has to do what she knows is best for him and for his people. He has responsibilities and she knows that at the time, he would never be able to marry a commoner. It just wouldn’t be proper court etiquette. It would never be allowed. And she hopes that she’ll find her own happiness.”
“She matures; she knows she has to move on.”
Despite the bittersweet ending, Taverner is enjoying the opportunity to play the role of a young girl just beginning to discover love. “I’m trying to find my inner sparkly, exuberant self,” she says.
The Toronto Operetta Theatre’s production of “The Student Prince” runs Dec. 27–Jan. 3 at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. For more details, visit: www.torontooperetta.com