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Die verhängnißvolle Faschings-Nacht

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Die verhängnißvolle Faschings-Nacht
The Fateful Carnival Night

A local farce with songs in 3 acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 13th April 1839

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Tatlhuber, a country farmer
Philipp, his son
Helene, his wife
Sepherl, Tatlhuber's foster daughter and maid to Philipp and Helene
Rosine, a maid, and Heinrich, a servant, both in Philipp's house
Charmant, Chevalier
Gottlieb Taubenherz, brother of Helene's dead husband
A servant
Lorenz, (originally played by Nestroy) and Jacob, woodcutters
Katherl, Jacob's wife
Nanni, a laundress
Schneck, Luchs, nightwatchmen
Frau Mühlerin, a burgher's wife
Frau von Hohenglanz
Frau Everl,
Frau Regerl, herbalists
Market traders, servants, Philipp's neighbours

The action takes place in a provincial town, in Philipp's house and a tavern.

Act 1. Sepherl complains to her foster father Tatlhuber that she is continuously being bossed around by his daughter-in-law Helene, and that she doesn't get much help or sympathy from Tatlhuber's son Philipp, who is afraid of his wife. She also tells him about her admirer Lorenz. Tatlhuber is not impressed that Lorenz is only a woodcutter, and thinks she deserves better. - Lorenz now learns from Everl that Sepherl has been talking "to an older man" at the market, and is very jealous.
Meanwhile Tatlhuber rebukes Philipp for letting his wife wear the trousers and siding with her against Sepherl. To boost Philipp's status vis-à-vis his wife, Tatlhuber suggests he acquire and manage an estate in the country. Helene rejects the idea, but Philip tries to assert himself. Helen then threatens to leave him and take their baby with her, and Philipp gives in, as he cannot bear to be separated from the child.
The Chevalier Charmant arrives to invite Tatlhuber to a masked ball that evening. When Philipp and Tatlhuber have left, the Chevalier starts to make advances to Helene. Helene, flattered at first, is less pleased when he also makes a pass at Sepherl, and turns him out of the house.
Meanwhile Helene's brother-in-law Gottlieb Taubenherz is complaining that most of his father's fortune was left to his brother, who then died leaving his share to his wife Helene rather than to Gottlieb as agreed. Now Helene has compounded the felony by remarrying and making her baby son her heir. As Helene refuses even to discuss a compromise, Taubenherz decides to abduct the child and have it raised in a poor family where it may learn proper values and not be spoiled. He prophesies that, without the child, Philipp and Helene's marriage will fail, giving him the opportunity to ingratiate his own daughter into Helene's affections and thus secure the inheritance after all, if only for his daughter. Taubenherz enlists the aid of Philipp's servant Heinrich in implementing his plan.
In the tavern, Lorenz takes Tatlhuber for a rival and is tempted to give him a thrashing. Tatlhuber in turn has come to the inn to observe Lorenz and decide if he is a suitable husband for Sepherl. - In the meantime Charmant tries again to ingratiate himself with Helene. As she rejects him, he assumes that he has a rival. Lorenz confronts Sepherl about her "older lover". She tells him he is talking nonsense and he apologises. - Heinrich enlists Jacob to help him carry out Taubenherz's plan and kidnap the child. Meanwhile Tatlhuber and Charmant have both disguised themselves as woodcutters, the former to observe Lorenz, the latter Helene.


Act 2. [Chorus of laundresses and their boyfriends] - Lorenz tells Nanni that he is never sure if he has good reason to be jealous or not. Nanni decides to win him for herself and asks him to carry a laundry basket for her next morning to Seppherl's master and mistress. Lorenz declines out of fear of Seppherl's reaction. - [Duet Nanni/Lorenz]
Helen spies Charmant beneath her window, and decides to use him to humiliate her husband at the ball that evening, because Philipp is still trying to assert his authority, encouraged by his father. Tatlhuber tells Seppherl about his disguise and warns her against Lorenz. He offers to introduce her to "a steadier mature man", but she refuses. He actually means himself, but can't summon up the courage to propose to her directly. - [Song, Tatlhuber: "Should I risk it? Not just yet"]
Heinrich, Jacob and Katherl plot the kidnapping. When the master and mistress leave the house to go to the ball, Heinrich persuades Rosine to join him at the Carnival, so that Seppherl is left alone in the house. She hears someone moving about. When she goes to look, the child and its basket have disappeared. In alarm she rushes out of the house to look for it. Meanwhile Lorenz is waiting for Seppherl. When she doesn't appear, he is mad with jealousy.
After making her husband jealous, Helene returns home escorted by Charmant, who then goes into a sulk because she won't let him in the house. Lorenz and Charmant each finds their way independently into the darkened house and bump into each other in the dark. As Charmant thinks he is addressing Heinrich, he tells him he has been seeing Seppherl and swears him to silence. Lorenz is beside himself with rage. He charges into another room, meets whom he thinks in the dark is Seppherl, strikes her so that she collapses in a faint, and runs from the house. Philipp, Tatlhuber and Charmant return. Helene staggers towards them, complaining she has been struck by a strange man. She now notices the child has disappeared and is distraught.


Act 3. In a fury at Seppherl's supposed infidelity, Lorenz has decided to love Nanni instead. As a token of his affection he will fetch the laundry basket after all. - [Song, Lorenz: "And none of it was true"]
Jacob and Katherl, with the child in its basket, are waiting for Heinrich, but he fails to show up. They decide to hide the basket behind a fence and go off in search of Taubenherz. Lorenz has fetched the laundry basket. But as it is still the middle of the night and he knows Nanni is at a ball, he hides the basket behind the same fence and goes off in search of amusement. Jacob finds Taubenherz and, after a quarrel over his payment, tells him where the basket is hidden. Taubenherz takes the laundry basket and, soon afterwards, Lorenz takes the child. Neither notices the mistake.
Seppherl and the nightwatchman are frantically searching for the baby, while her master and mistress suspect she has abducted it herself. With the nightwatchman's help Taubenherz, Jacob and Heinrich are finally caught, but there is only washing in the basket. Lorenz appears with the other basket and everyone is relieved. He wastes no time telling Seppherl of his meeting with Charmant and his new love for Nanni. Seppherl simply rebukes him for being so stupid.
In gratitude Philipp promises that Helene will give Seppherl a dowry so that she can marry. But Seppherl is fed up with Lorenz and decides instead to accept Tatlhuber, who finally summons up the courage. Helene recognises her own failings and agrees to move to the country with Philipp. - [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