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Der Kobold

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Der Kobold
oder Staberl im Feendienst

The Cobold
or Staberl in the Service of the Fairies

A magical parody with songs in 4 acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 19th April 1838

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Brennroth, Lord of the Subterranean Kingdom of Fire
Folletterl, his son, a young cobold (originally played by Nestroy)
Frau Margarethe, an old farmer's wife
Thekla, her foster daughter
Mathias, a rich farmer
Peregrinus, his son
Staberl, formerly an umbrella maker, his friend
Undine, queen of the fairies and water nymphs
Idyla, a water nymph
Funken, spirits of fire
Sterzel, a village magistrate
Veit, a farmer
Farmers and farmers' wives, nymphs, tritons, genies, gnomes, spirits of fire

The action takes place partly near Margarethe's house and in woodland, and partly in the fairy realm.

Act 1. [Chorus] – Margarethe wants to marry off Thekla, who everyone thinks is her granddaughter, as soon as possible. Years before, the baby Thekla was left on her doorstep with instructions to bring her up as her own child, and promise of a great reward.. Recently a figure has appeared to her in a dream urging her to get Thekla married as protection against looming danger. Margarethe is pleased therefore at Peregrinus' interest in Thekla and the marriage date is set, though Thekla is reluctant. On the eve of the wedding Undine, queen of the nymphs, appears and tells Margarethe that Thekla was the child of her own union with a mortal. Her enemy Brennroth, controller of fire, will be a threat to Thekla "as long as the flames of love blaze freely in her heart", hence the need to marry her off as soon as possible. The chatterbox Staberl is caught eavesdropping on this conversation, but Undine offers to forgive him as long as, in return for "an exceptional reward", he will help protect her daughter until she is safely wed. - Fate now decrees to Brennroth that his own son Folletterl must assume human shape to try to seduce Thekla. – [Chorus] – The catch is that as Folletterl's mother was human, he will be reduced to an ordinary mortal if he falls in love with an earthling. [Song, Folletterl: "What a pretty little cobold I am"] – Brennroth reluctantly entrusts his son with the mission along with dire warnings against falling in love, but Folletterl assures him that he is immune to such earthly feelings. – [Chorus]

Act 2. [Song, Thekla: "I can't reconcile myself to it."] – Thekla is depressed at the prospect of marriage because the wife must be subservient. What if she then meets "Mr Right" and it is too late? Staberl has entered the forest to keep an eye on Thekla, still intrigued by what the "exceptional reward" could be. He convinces himself that it can only be Undine's heart. He bumps into Folletterl who immediately reveals his identity and his mission. If Staberl will help him catch Thekla, he will direct him to the woodland stream that is Undine's haven. Initially reluctant, Staberl is bribed by the cobold's gold and reveals that Thekla can be found every evening at the fountain. – [song, Folletterl: "I wouldn't have thought it, but gold rules the world"] - Finding Undine, Staberl declares his love, to which Undine responds in fury. But as soon as he warns her of Folletterl's designs on Thekla at the fountain, she forgives him and again promises the "exceptional reward". For the time being she gives him a magic drink which will make Thekla disappear for two hours and make Staberl assume her shape, and be mute so as not to betray himself through speech.


Act 3. Staberl, as the mute Thekla, meets Folletterl at the fountain, and the cobold's clever ways win the "girl's" affections, until he is driven away by Undine's servant in the guise of Margarethe.

Act 4. The next day Staberl has difficulty recalling the two hours at the fountain. Folletterl on the other hand has fallen in love with Thekla and can't wait to see her again. He now encounters the real Thekla, who to his amazement does not remember him and is anything but mute. – [Duet Thekla/Folletterl] – Thekla gradually falls in love with Folletterl. – [Chorus] – Girls arrive with presents for the wedding with Peregrinus, but Thekla is confused about her feelings. On the one hand she is in love with Folletterl, on the other his magic properties frighten her. Margarethe arrives to take her to the wedding. - Folletterl and Staberl are now transformed into Peregrinus and Thekla, and take hands for the ceremony. Brennroth appears, changes Staberl back and warns Folletterl that he must never love an earthling. But Folletterl has decided he would rather be mortal, live as a farmer and marry Thekla. Undine appears, triumphant over Brennroth, and embraces her daughter, before granting Staberl the "exceptional reward" for his pains: she will show him the source of eternal happiness. Whereupon Staberl points at the audience: THEY are the source of eternal happiness, he proclaims, and he hopes they never dry up.


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