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Alt-Heidelberg ("Old Heidelberg") is a German drama in five acts by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster (a.k.a. Samar Gregorow), (1862-1934)[1].

The original text

A play was based on Meyer-Förster's own 1898 novel Karl Heinrich, it tells the story of Prince Karl from Saxony who, while studying at the Heidelberg University, falls in love with Käthie, an innkeeper's daughter, but has to give her up when his father dies and he is called to return to his homeland and rule as King.

The play was first performed in 1901.


Translated into English as Old Heidelberg by Rudolf Bleichmann (fl. 1900) and first produced at St. James's Theatre on 19 March, 1903, playing till 17 July, before going to the Grand Theatre, Southampton for the 1903–1904 season.

Translated from the German into Afrikaans as Ou Heidelberg, a drama in five acts, by M.R. Heyns, published by J.H. de Bussy, 1932.


Musical versions

Eidelberga Mia

Written in 1908, Eidelberga Mia ("My Heidelberg") was a four act operatic version of the play, and had a libretto by Alberto Colantuoni ( 1874-1959)[2] and music by Ubaldo Pacchierotti (1876-1916)[3]. It premiered in Genoa at the Teatro Carlo Felice in 1908 and performed at the Volksoper in Vienna on 12 February 1909, probably as Alt-Heidelberg, in the German translation by Ottoman Piltz.

The Student Prince

In 1924 the play provided the basis for the immensely popular operetta The Student Prince[4], with music by Sigmund Romberg (1887–1951)[5] and a book and lyrics by Dorothy Donnelly (1880-1928) [6]. The piece opened at the Jolson Theatre, New York on 2 December, 1924, running for 608 performances and becoming the longest-running Broadway show of the 1920s, and has often been performed all over the world since.

For South African performances, see The Student Prince

Film versions

Owing to the story's popularity as Meyer-Förster's best-known work, the original play has been turned into films on numerous occasions, including the American silent film Old Heidelberg (1915), the German silent film Alt-Heidelberg (1923), Ernst Lubitsch's The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1926)[7], and Ernst Marischka's Old Heidelberg (1959).

The best known film version of the story is probably the 1954 American musical film The Student Prince, directed by Richard Thorpe with a screenplay by Sonya Levien and William Ludwig, based on the operetta. The film starred Ann Blyth and Edmund Purdom, though the Prince's songs were famously sung by Mario Lanza (who had been the original choice for the role).

Performance history of Alt-Heidelberg in South Africa

1904: Performed in English as Old Heidelberg in the Cape Town Opera House on 7 March, by the Sass-Nelson Company, featuring T.B. Thalberg as "Karl Heinrich", Edward Sass as "Dr Juttner", Eugene Mayeur as "Kellermann", Katherine Pole as "Katie". The production is exceedingly highly praised by D.C. Boonzaier in his memoires.

1904: Performed once more in Englishy by the Sass-Nelson Company in the Cape Town Opera House during August.

1939: Produced in Afrikaans as Ou Heidelberg by Kurt Baum (1901-1964) and the Die Ossewateater.

1942: The Afrikaans version, also titled Alt-Heidelberg, was presented by the Vrouevereniging van Stellenbosch ("Stellenbosch Women's Association") under the auspices of K.A.T., November 1942, in the Hofmeyr Hall


Frederik Jacobus Nel. 1972. Die Kaapstadse Afrikaanse Toneelvereniging, 1934-1962. Unpublished master’s thesis. University of Stellenbosch.

D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.419, 421

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