15 December: Romberg’s prohibited onstage drinking
Every day throughout Advent, the season of overindulgence, we’ll be telling a tale of an overindulgent composer
Composer: Sigmund Romberg
How indulgent: Wonderfully indulgent
How: 20th century Austro-Hungarian composer Sigmund Romberg, known chiefly for his Gilbert and Sullivan-style operettas, may have even used a drinking song to make a political statement. The drinking song from his operetta, The Student Prince, which features the memorable line ‘Drink! Drink! Drink’, appeared in the era of Prohibition, and its blatant celebration of alcohol made it extremely popular amongst audiences. It was also an ingenious way to get at least some people to drink alcohol, as the students on stage consume the beverage whilst singing about it! He has to visualise it for us, of course.
Did you know: This particular ‘Drinking Song’ forms part of a tradition associated with Italian opera, called the ‘brindisi’ tradition. Verdi provides a celebrated example in La traviata.
Now indulge yourself with….. ‘Mother’
Romberg’s emotionally-charged song is perhaps a little too poignant for Christmas, but this is, after all, a season of reflection. The song’s profound beauty and celebration of family is appropriate for Christmas; set behind the frontline in wartime Belgium, the singer reflects on previous years and the tender care of his mother.