You are here:
Synopsis index
Der Färber und sein Zwillingsbruder

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Der Färber und sein Zwillingsbruder
The Textile Dyer and his Twin Brother

A farce with songs in 3 acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 15th January 1840

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Kilian Blau, master dyer,
Hermann Blau, a sergeant in the border police (twin brothers, both originally played by Nestroy)
Knall, sergeants in the border police
Gemeiner, Hermann's servants
Gertrud, Gemeiner's wife
Anselm, Kilian's apprentice
Mamsell Roserl, raised in Kilian's house
Meister Klopf, a coppersmith
Herr von Löwenschlucht, head forester
Cordelia, his sister
Peter, their servant
Marquis Saintville
Thomas, employed by the Marquis
von Dornberg, a policeman
Jean, the Marquis' servant
Martin, Kilian's assistant
Border police, guests of Kilian, guests and servants of the Marquis

The action of Act 1 takes place partly in front of a tavern in the moiuntains, and partly a mile from there at a market, of Act 2 in a border police station, and of Act 3 at the nearby castle of Marquis Saintville.

Act 1. [Chorus of gendarmes] – Sergeant Hermann Blau is a serial womanizer with several ongoing affairs, including two with women across the border. For the gendarmes, crossing the border without permission is a punishable offence, but Hermann is used to taking risks. - [Song, Hermann: "My motto is 'Bring on the danger!'] - His twin brother Kilian, who is very different in temperament and dyes fabrics for a living - [Song, Kilian: "It's all in the colour"] - has fixed a date for his wedding without actually managing to propose to the girl he loves, Roserl. Not until the morning of the engagement party does he get round to declaring his affections. But Roserl misunderstands his approach and thinks he is marrying someone else. She bravely hides her disappointment, having no more managed to convey her feelings for Kilian than he has for her. - [Chorus of guests] - So much greater is her delight therefore when Kilian introduces her to the party guests as his bride. Alone for a moment, she is accosted by Peter, servant to head forester Löwenschlucht (lit: Lion Gorge) whose estates are just across the border. Peter warns Roserl that her fiance is a blackguard who specializes in seducing virgins and destroying marriages. When Kilian reappears, Peter accuses him of seducing his master's sister, Cordelia, and then deserting her. Peter departs and Kilian is dumbfounded, until he suddenly remembers his twin brother and realizes he must be the guilty party. As children, he explains, their father had so often confused the two boys that Kilian was regularly beaten for something Hermann had done. He knows his brother is currently stationed nearby, but had decided not to invite him to the wedding, to avoid any possible confusion . Hermann's servant Sturm now arrives, hoping to find his master there. He suspects Hermann is with one of his lady friends over the border, and warns that if he is not back in time for roll call at 6, the commandant will have him shot, or at the very least banished to some inhospitable outpost. Recalling Peter's accusation, Kilian and Roserl decide to look for Hermann at von Löwenschlucht's estate across the border. - [Chorus of guests and Kilian]


Act 2. [Chorus of gendarmes and Gertrud] - The Löwenschlucht household has mistaken Kilian for his brother and set the dogs on him. The roll call is now imminent and still no sign of Hermann. Kilian is persuaded to don his brother's uniform and impersonate him, and Sturm and Roserl set about trying to teach him a proper military bearing. Löwenschlucht suddenly arrives to defend his sister's honour: her seducer must either marry her at once or fight a duel. Matters are delayed when Kilian is suddenly ordered to lead the gendarmes in a raid against a dangerous gang of smugglers. Roserl fears for her fiance's life. - After a brief skirmish the gendarmes return. Kilian has done his best to stay out of harm's way, but his brother's horse had other ideas and carried him ahead of his men into the heat of battle. The gendarmes, none the wiser, salute his extraordinary courage. The duel with Löwenschlucht is deferred once again as Kilian is summoned by the commandant to be commended for his bravery. - [Chorus of sergeants and gendarmes]

Act 3. In recognition of their capture of the smugglers, the gendarmes have all been cordially invited to the castle of Marquis Saintville. The Marquis has dissuaded Löwenschlucht from dueling and invited Cordelia to join the party, in order to effect a reconciliation that will lead to an immediate marriage. Löwenstein is willing to withdraw the challenge if Kilian will return Cordelia's love letters. Kilian's improvised excuse that he has burnt all the lady's declarations of love is hardly designed to placate her angry brother. Nonetheless, a wedding is very much on the cards until it is halted by the arrival of Sturm, who whispers to Kilian that he must take off his brother's uniform. Hermann, it seems, has finally shown up, having spent an uncomfortable day or two hiding in a wardrobe after almost being caught in flagrante by a suspicious husband. Hermann has had a fright, is determined to change his ways, and will prove he is a reformed character by marrying Cordelia at once. Unaware of the swop, Roserl bravely hides her grief as she watches the wedding of Cordelia and (as she thinks) Kilian. Only when she spies an identical man dressed in a dyer's smock embracing the one in uniform and congratulating the bride does she realize that this is also her wedding day and that the one in the smock is her bridegroom.


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