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The Student Prince

In a continuation of their American series, Central City Opera has chosen Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince as its 2004 offering. While purists may tut-tut over the choice of an operetta, anyone who struggled through the atonality and dearth of melody in the post-modern selections over the past few years should be cheered by this selection.

Romberg was raised on Viennese opera, and The Student Prince reflects his love of waltzes, marches, and the popular German drinking songs that filled the beer gardens and fraternities of the period.

Photo of Diane Alexander as Kathie, Eric Fennell as Prince Karl Franz, and Daniel Narducci as Dr. Engel
Diane Alexander as Kathie,
Eric Fennell as Prince Karl Franz,
and Daniel Narducci as Dr. Engel
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
The story centers around Karl Franz, the sheltered prince of Karlsberg, who, at long last, is given the opportunity to experience the real world for one year, while taking classes at the University of Heidelberg. During his time there, the prince meets Kathie, a kind-hearted voluptuous blonde, the niece of the innkeeper where the he is residing.

While this plot may sound cliché, and may lead you to assume that Karl Franz and Kathie fall in love and live happily ever after, Romberg, thankfully, resisted pressures from the all-powerful Shubert brothers, who attempted to impose this resolution, and refused to lighten the score or change his bittersweet ending. At one point, the Shuberts barred Romberg from their theatre, so he sued to get relief from this action and maintain the integrity of his creation.

Photo of Eric Fennell as Karl Franz and Diane Alexander as Kathie
Eric Fennell as Karl Franz
and Diane Alexander as Kathie
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
Set amid the opulence of a pre-World War I palace and the bucolic German countryside, and steeped in irresistible melodies, The Student Prince offers an evening of sensual delights. Daniel Narducci, as Dr. Engel, the Prince's worldly tutor, sets the tone for the story with his rich baritone, wizened advice, and nostalgic reminiscences. Eric Fennell (who performs only twice during the run) as the Karl Franz, is an impassioned tenor, and matches pleasingly with Diane Alexander (Kathie) and her gifted soprano.

By far the most hilarious and engaging performer on the stage was Gene Scheer as Lutz, the over-the-top valet to the Prince, who steals every scene in which he partakes, mugging and posing, and full of witty, seemingly extemporaneous repartee.

Photo of Diane Alexander as Kathie
Diane Alexander
as Kathie
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
The other luminous body on the stage is that of the chorus, which fills the acoustically perfect opera house with spirited interpretations of the great drinking songs. Douglas Fisher guides the Festival Orchestra with aplomb, leaving us without any grounds for complaint.

Central City Opera's presentation of Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince runs in repertory with Jacques Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman and Jules Massenet's The Juggler of Notre Dame, through August 7th. 303-292-6700.





Bob Bows

 

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