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Der Tod am Hochzeitstage

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Der Tod am Hochzeitstage
oder Mann, Frau, Kind

Death on the Wedding Day
or Man, Wife and Child

A magic play with songs
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 18th August 1829
[Themes drawn from plays by J.A. Gleich]

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Herr von Dappschädl (Thickskull), a rich landowner (originally played by Nestroy)
Henriette, his ward, niece to Dappschädl's dead wife
Frau von Steinbach, a widow, neighbour to Dappschädl
Carl, her nephew
Grund, Dappschädl's former valet
Sepherl, a maid
Martin, a village magistrate
Strohmann, farmers in the same village
2 other farmers

Matz Stixlmann, an incompetent robber
Other robbers

Lunara, the Queen of Dreams
Servant in Dappschädl's mansion
Peasants, genies, fauns, satyrs, allegorical figures

In dreams:
Herr von Dappschädl as a young bridegroom
Frau von Dappschädl, his bride
Peppi, her maid
Sir Punchington, an English gentleman
Miss Lunar, his niece, a widow
Madame Klang, a singing teacher
Madame Point d’honneur, a widow
Emilie, her daughter
Siegwart Point d’Honneur, her son
Johann, servants to Dappschädl

Dappschädl's 2-year-old child
Frau Stixl, a nanny
A Grenadier

Madame Subtile, a dressmaker

Act 1: The action takes place in 1829, partly in Herr von Dappschädl's mansion and its environs, partly in the realm of dreams.
Act 2: Dreams of 1804 and 1807 in the town; the end returns to Dappschädl's mansion in 1829.

Act 1. [Robber chorus.] The robber Stixlmann is mocked by his colleagues for being a thoroughly incompetent thief. To stay with the band he must prove himself by robbing young Carl, who is late on his way home from hunting. By a stroke of luck, Stixlmann stumbles upon Carl's gun and wallet in the forest. He also stumbles upon a meeting between witches and Lunara, Queen of Dreams. [Witches' chorus.] The witches tell Lunara that the whole district belongs to Dappschädl, whose wife died 25 years ago on her wedding day. Until a year ago the widower has been travelling round the world and trying to enjoy life. Since his return, however, he has become melancholy and misanthropic and cannot bear to see anyone being happy. The witches are concerned that his neighbour Frau von Steinbach is hoping to marry him, cure him of his misanthropy and persuade him to bless the union of her nephew Carl with his ward Henriette. The witches would far rather Dappschädl continued spreading misery and discontent through the district. They ask Lunara to make him even more miserable by causing him to dream of happy times with his wife. The Queen of Dreams, however, decides to scupper their plan by using dreams to cure Dappschädl instead. - [2nd witches' chorus.] - Carl comes across Stixlmann, who has been driven mad by what he's seen and heard, in possession of his gun and wallet. Out of misplaced gratitude for restoring his property he takes Stixlmann home with him.
[Dappschädl aria: "O cruel fate!"] - Everything reminds Dappschädl of his dead wife and depresses his spirits. He angrily denies five couples from the village permission to marry. The villagers then trick him into signing the consent forms, which makes him even angrier. He is equally dismissive of Frau von Steinbach's pleas for the wedding of Carl and Henriette. - [Invisible chorus.] - Dappschädl now takes Stixlmann out hunting with him, and after dusk they encounter Lunara, believing her to be a simple peasant woman. Dappschädl's state of mind improves and he decides to spend the night in her hut. Lunara conjures a deep sleep for both of them. Dappschädl falls asleep wishing that his wife had survived her wedding day, while Stixlmann wishes he was an old woman, believing old women to be much happier creatures than himself. Lunara resolves to release Dappschädl only once he has seen the error of his ways. - [Chorus of kobolds] - In the realm of dreams Lunara asks for the two men's wishes to be granted: Dappschädl's wife survives, Stixlmann becomes an old woman. [Chorus of spirits]

Act 2.

Scene 1. First dream of 1804: [Chorus of musicians with the servants Joseph and Christian]. Barely a week after his wedding, Dappschädl has had several liaisons with other women and is becoming frustrated with the ensuing complications. He is currently in love with Miss Lunar, whom he wants to accompany to America. Siegwart, brother to Emilie, another of his lovers, is trying both to extract a financial settlement from Dappschädl for his sister and widowed mother, and to have a liaison himself with Mrs Dappschädl, if necessary with the aid of her maid Peppi. Matters come to a head that evening: at precisely 8 o'clock Dappschädl has arranged to be in three different places at once: collecting Miss Lunar in a carriage from her inn so they can run away together; signing over 12,000 guilders at Emilie and her mother's house (so that Siegwart can call on Frau von Dappschädl unmolested by the husband); and sitting in his very own drawing room listening to his wife sing an aria she has studied with her singing teacher. As the clock strikes eight, with the doors locked against unwelcome intruders, Dappschädl finds himself having to listen to his wife's singing while fearing that Miss Lunar will leave without him, and has reason to curse the restrictions that marriage has imposed. Conveniently finding an outside ladder leaning against one of the windows, he tries to make his escape, only to encounter Siegwart ascending from below. Thus ends the first dream of 1804. [Chorus of spirits] - On waking, Dappschädl admits to Lunara that he wasn't cut out for marriage, but insists that his wife was happy, and that her death was therefore a great tragedy. Lunara now decides to let Dappschädl experience the marriage from his wife's point of view. [Chorus of spirits]
Scene 2. Second dream of 1804. In a continuation of the first dream Dappschädl now appears as his wife. In despair, Frau von Dappschädl realises that her husband has simply slipped away during her singing. Siegwart bursts in, slightly the worse for drink, but neither his declarations of love for her nor the news of Dappschädl's affair with Emilie can sway her from loving her husband. Dappschädl is heard returning and Siegwart hides in the alcove. But the singing teacher Madame Klang, aware of the intruder, tips off the husband. Siegwart falls asleep and sinks to the floor, taking the curtains with him. Dappschädl enters and his wife collapses in a faint. Thus ends the second dream of 1804. - [Chorus of spirits] - Awake again, Dappschädl now admits that neither he nor his wife were happy in the marriage. But he is convinced that a child of theirs would have been happy. Lunara decides to disillusion him on this point too. - [Chorus of invisible spirits]
Scene 3. Dream of 1807. Stixlmann appears as Frau Stixl the nanny and Dappschädl as his own 2-year-old child. Frau Stixl is jealous of young Peppi who is obviously more attractive to men than she is. The task of looking after the Dappschädl child is more than she can bear, and in order to be free for a date with Heinrich, she ties the child to its bed. It is clear that neither parent takes proper care of their offspring.
Conclusion, 1829. [Invisible chorus] Lunara is sure that Dappschädl and Stixlmann are cured of their delusions. [Invisible chorus] Both men awake and return home, arriving just in time for the multiple wedding, to the horror of the five couples. To general amazement, Dappschädl not only encourages the brides, grooms and guests to be merry, he also proposes to Frau von Steinbach and gives his blessing to Carl and Henriette. [Finale Dappschädl and chorus "The Swabians are known as a merry lot."]


The Plays of Johann Nestroy. A directory of synopses prepared by Julian Forsyth & Zoe Svenson.
Funded by the Austrian Cultural Forum and Arts Council England. © Moving Theatre 2004