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Müller, Kohlenbrenner und Sesselträger

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Müller, Kohlenbrenner und Sesselträger
The Miller, the Charcoal Burner and the Sedan Chair Carrier

Magic play in three acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 4th April 1834

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Rübezahl, Prince of Gnomes
Weiss, a miller,
Schwarz, a charcoal burner,
Roth, a sedan chair carrier (originally played by Nestroy), relations and business partners
Frau Gertrud, a rich landlady and widow living near town
Mamsell Margareth, her sister
Mamsell Sandl, a relative
Martin, a farmer
A waiter
A maid
A chocolate maker and an innkeeper, both from the town
A small boy

Nanett, a maid, and Stephan, an old servant, both in their service of the business partners
Prompt, bookkeeper of an old trading house
Sandbanck, captain of a merchant ship
A doctor
A servant

Herr von Feldstein, a rich landowner
Abelard, also known as Whitehead,
Sigwart, also known as Blacklocks,
Herfort, also known as Redcheeks, his sons
Herr von Waldbaum
Josephine, his daughters
Magister Baculus, a tutor
Streusand, a notary
Frau Marthe, a rich woman
Klärchen, her daughters
A servant

Marquis Pomade
Marquis Odeur
Marquis Toilette
3 creditors
Herr Schwan, a poet
Signor Nero, a singer
Herr Steinröthel, an orchestral conductor
Cajetan, servants to the three artists
Herr von Maus, a friend of the arts
Servant to Fräulein Schmacht
Servant to Frau von Herzbrand

Johann Proczpack, a tailor
Frau Sepherl, his wife
Herr von Pracht, a landlord
Herr Modell, a wax polisher
Lord Kipfelkoch
Ladies and gentlemen, servants, musicians, clerks of court, creditors, guests, gnomes, genies, countryfolk

Act 1 The action takes place in Vienna
Act 2 The action takes place in Vienna, one year later
Act 3 The action takes place in Brühl, about twenty years later than in the second act.

Act 1. [Chorus] – Gertrud, Margreth and Sandl are to marry Roth, Weiss and Schwarz (Red, White and Black) tomorrow, but their joy is sullied by the behaviour of their bridegrooms, who are getting on in years and have been increasingly neglectful of their fiancées recently. The brides wish they had lived 300 years earlier, when spirits came to one's aid in such situations. At that moment the gnome Rübezahl appears disguised as a quack and offers his services, but the women decline.
[Song, Roth:"It's no fun being a sedan chair carrier] – Roth has come into an inheritance and plans to give up his job as a sedan chair carrier. If only he hadn't got engaged he would be a free man. Weiss has also lost his enthusiasm for the wedding, having recently embarked on another relationship. Schwarz encounters his friends in the tavern where he is trying to hide from his creditors. All Schwarz wants from marriage is to clear his debts. All three of them feel trapped and are letting their brides know it through their moodiness, neglect and coarse behaviour. In his doctor's disguise, Rübezahl listens to the three men's complaints: how they were once in love with their brides and had eagerly drawn up marriage contracts, but now see married life as a recipe for boredom. Rübezahl asks what they want from life, and they answer: money, romantic love and artistic success. Rübezahl warns that all these things are sweet to taste on the outside but bitter at the core. The men are unimpressed by his wisdom. Rübezahl decides to fulfil their wishes in their dreams and puts them into a deep sleep.
The rest of the action is in the men's dreams. Schwarz, Weiss and Roth are business partners. A huge legacy has suddenly made them millionaires. They immediately set about spending the money and organizing a huge party. – [Song, Nanett: "A ball tonight and a dinner tomorrow"). – Schwarz happily assumes that the daughters of his wealthy acquaintances will fall in love with him, while Weiss plans to acquire carriages, country houses and a French chef. To let them taste wealth's bitter core as well as its sweet shell, Rübezahl propels their dreams forward by one year. Roth is now so afraid of robbers stealing his money that he cannot eat and distrusts everyone including his two partners. Schwarz is despondent that, despite his money, no woman will look at him now that he is old and ugly. He summons the doctor, who only confirms that all the money in the world cannot buy him youth and beauty. Weiss is moody and takes it out on his servants because nothing gives him pleasure. All three decide to put an end to their miserable lives, and shoot themselves. That marks the end of the first dream. Rübezahl now conjures a second dream, the dream of romantic love.


Act 2. In this dream Weiss appears as Abelard, Schwarz as Sigwart and Roth as Herfort. These three young men return home after 12 years away studying. Their father wishes them to marry Therese, Charlotte and Josephine, the daughters of Herr von Waldbaum. What their father doesn't know is that all three have already found brides with whom they are passionately in love: the three sisters Heloise, Marianne and Klärchen.
[Duet, Klärchen, Herfort: "My Herfort, what is it?"] – Herfort tells Klärchen of his father's plans. The three pairs of lovers resolve to kill themselves: the men will hang themselves from trees and the girls will drown themselves in the river. In the nick of time Herr von Feldstein arrives, closely followed by Herr von Waldbaum with his daughters in tow, and the mother of the girls they love. Herr von Waldbaum, seeing how things stand, withdraws with his daughters, deeply offended. The mother of Heloise, Marianne and Klärchen then reveals herself as a rich landlady, and the young people receive their parents' blessing to wed.
Rübezahl now shifts the action forward five years. Abelard, Herfort and Sigwart, who has been drinking heavily since his wedding, are planning to divorce, because their marriages are marred by bad temper, quarrelling and physical violence. – [Duet Klärchen, Herfort, in which neither can understand how they were once so in love.] All six have summoned the notary for divorce proceedings. The women appear with three Marquis to take their part, hoping to claim the property without completing the divorce. Pandemonium breaks out and the notary beats a hasty retreat. Marquis Pomade has forged bills of exchange for the women in their husbands' names. The women escape with their noblemen and whatever remains of their husbands' money. Too late the three dupes realize that their wives have fled and left them facing an army of creditors. The three are arrested. – [Chorus of clerks of court and creditors] – the dream of romantic love is at an end, and Rübezahl now conjures a third and final dream, the dream of artistic success.

Act 3. In this dream Weiss appears as the poet Swan, Schwarz as the singer Nero and Roth as the conductor Steinröthel. – [Francois and Chorus of servants] – The three artists are celebrating their success. Nero in particular is surrounded by rich young female admirers. All three are living it up. – [Nero and Chorus: "I only need to sing one note“].
Again Rübezahl shifts the action forward several years. Steinröthel is reduced to copying scores, Swan writes occasional poetry for birthdays, etc and Nero ekes out a living teaching singing. They are poor and hungry and cannot pay the rent. – [Song, Steinröthel: "Others build up capital"] – They starve to death and their landlord plunders their last few possessions. In death they achieve fame and as ghosts are forced to watch as the rich pay huge sums for their works and effects.
The scene is transformed. – [Chorus of countryfolk] – Gertrud, Margreth and Sandl are worried what has happened to their bridegrooms. Rübezahl shows them the sleeping trio. He reveals his identity and assures them that the men have been cured of their dreams. As Rübezahl disappears, the men awake happily and embrace their brides. – [Finale]


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