Time for Part Five of my serialization of The Prisoner of Zenda, first published in 1894 but truly a Tale for Our Time. Last night saw Rudolf Rassendyll pull out his bravuro Coronation switcheroo. In tonight's episode, having strolled into the job, he and Colonel Sapt have to figure out how to get him out - and the real King back in:
It was five o'clock, and at twelve I should be no more than Rudolf Rassendyll. I remarked on it in a joking tone.
'You'll be lucky,' observed Sapt grimly, 'if you're not the late Rudolf Rassendyll. By Heaven! I feel my head wobbling on my shoulders every minute you're in the city. Do you know, friend, that Michael has had news from Zenda? He went into a room alone to read it—and he came out looking like a man dazed.'
'I'm ready,' said I, this news making me none the more eager to linger.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Five of our adventure simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes of The Prisoner of Zenda can be found here, and previous Tales for Our Time here.
Founding Member Tom Godbold knows which part of the story he likes - not me and all those words, but the little non-verbal moment in between:
During the interlude in the middle of Episode Two of Mark's latest Tale for Our Time, The Prisoner of Zenda, there is a delightful coronation march reminding me of the music of Sigmund Romberg or Victor Herbert.
Can you tell me the name and composer of this work? Also if you ever release the Tales in CD format, please include a playlist of the accompanying intro scores and the complete works. They are great.
Well, you're not far off in your guess, Tom - and, in fact, Sigmund Romberg did write an operetta based on The Prisoner of Zenda called Princess Flavia. There's a surviving score in the Library of Congress, and many years ago I ordered up a copy with a view to reconstructing it. However, that's not what we're using for our nightly audio entertainment. Instead, I decided to go with a sly musical joke. Readers of my book Broadway Babies Say Goodnight (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore) may recall that I mention en passant the big hit of the 1902 season in Budapest, Jenő Huszka's Prince Bob, in which the eponymous "Bob", a son of Queen Victoria, sneaks out of Buckingham Palace to woo a Cockney serving wench on the streets of London. In other words, if you were a Mitteleuropean theatregoer 115 years ago, that was their Ruritania: England. So I always enjoyed that little joke - and I'm very fond of the big song from the score, "Londonban, hej", whose popularity in Hungary endured through half-a-century of Communism and into the new era. So all the music for our adaptation of Zenda comes from Huszka's score for Prince Bob.
See you for Part Six of The Prisoner of Zenda tomorrow, Wednesday, when I'll also be back behind the Golden EIB Microphone on America's Number One radio show for a full three hours starting live at 12 noon Eastern/9am Pacific.