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Der Erbschleicher

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Der Erbschleicher
The Legacy Hunter

A farce with songs in 4 acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 21st May 1840

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Baron Kuppenschnee
Rudolf, his nephew
Pauline, his wife
von Walting, a distant cousin of the Baron
Gregorius Tost, an innkeeper
Everl, his daughter, a waitress in town
Frau Bratelhoferin, an innkeeper
Agnes, a farm girl
Simon Dappel, a country bumpkin (originally played by Nestroy)
Uhu, an investor
Moorbach, Pauline's former guardian
Buchner, Kuppenschnee's bailiff
Friedrich, Rudolf's servant
Jean, Walting's servant
Schnalzer, carters
Emmerenzia Bachstelz, formerly Kuppenschnee's housekeeper
Brunner, farmers
Stein, hunters
Sack, a miller
Hansel, a waiter,
Steffel, a menial, both employed by Tost
Anton, a servant
Servants, hunters, carters

The action of Acts 1 and 2 takes place in Kuppenschnee's mansion and a tavern in the suburbs, of Acts 3 and 4 in Tost's inn and a remote hunting lodge.

Act 1. - [Chorus] - Rudolf has been separated from his wife and been disinherited by his uncle as a result. Baron Kuppenschnee has now made Herr von Walting, a distant cousin, his heir instead. The latter is already behaving like the new master, while Rudolf just wants to get away as quickly as possible. But his servant Friedrich is convinced there is a plot afoot. He urges Rudolf to make it up with Pauline, but Rudolf will only do so if she makes the first move. In fact Pauline has written several times to her husband, but the letters have been intercepted by Walting, who is naturally determined to prevent any reconciliation.
The scene shifts to Frau Bratelhoferin's tavern in the suburbs. Drinking there as a refreshing change from his own alehouse, the innkeeper Gregorius Tost sees himself as a free spirit whose talents are being wasted. He is always trying to get involved in "secret plans and little intrigues", so Friedrich's suspicions of a plot interest him greatly. To try to discover the truth, Friedrich pretends to Walting's servant Jean that he is in debt and dissatisfied with his master Rudolf. Jean offers to lend him 40 guilders. As Tost has to change the money for them, he feels he is already a co-conspirator. Jean offers Friedrich a position with Walting, and Friedrich accepts.
Walting arrives and, knowing Tost's love of intrigue, decides to involve him in his schemes. He instructs him that, if a lady should arrive at his tavern in the company of an older gentleman, he should ensure that they cannot proceed on their journey without a lengthy delay. Tost is thrilled with this commission. Walting is pleased that Rudolf has been threatened with arrest by the investor Uhu, who had lent the Baron's nephew 3,000 guilders to pay off a gambling debt on the strength of his promised inheritance. When the Baron shows Rudolf the document making Walting his sole heir, Rudolf asks his uncle to at least pay the debt to Uhu. When Tost lets slip what the money was for, the Baron is furious and is happy to have him arrested.
[Song, Dappel: "I'm searching for my Agnes"] - Dappel tells his troubles to Radschuh, a carter: back in his tiny village he had fallen in love with Agnes and started to make wedding plans. But Agnes decided to go to the town, work as a maidservant, save money and see the world. Now he is searching for her, and ready to forgive her everything. Radschuh advises him to give up the search, forget Agnes and become a carter.
Tost's daughter Everl is interested in Dappel's new job prospects. She drops hints that her father wants her to find a husband who can eventually take over his tavern. Dappel is tempted but can't get Agnes out of his head. There is a bit of a stir when Moorbach enters and asks for a room for a lady who is travelling incognito. - [Chorus]


Act 2. Pauline is distressed that, in leaving her husband, she has deprived him of his inheritance. She knows he is too proud to live off her money. Moorbach manages to comfort her, for in the meantime Friedrich has managed to lay hands on her intercepted letters and found out where she is staying. He can thus keep her informed of new developments.
Pauline needs a trustworthy maid, and Agnes is recommended to her. Though her manner is somewhat cheeky, Pauline takes a liking to her. Friedrich informs Moorbach about Walting's schemes: he is trying to ensure that Pauline does not return to the Baron's estate, and has managed to influence the Baron against her. Walting is now in a position to prevent Pauline seeing the Baron, but news of her arrival at the inn might bring Walting to intercept her, and thus away from the Baron's side.
Meanwhile Everl is still trying to win Dappel's affections and wean him off his old love. But the circumspect Dappel prefers to wait and see if Agnes really marries someone else, and if she does, and is then widowed, if she would still prefer another man to him a second time. Only in those circumstances would he feel able to commit his heart to another woman. Everl feels she can't wait that long, as her father is coming back to fetch her that afternoon. If she hasn't got a husband by then, she will marry her father's head waiter.
Dappel now meets Agnes. He tries to reason with her, but she is convinced she is destined for higher things. She encourages Dappel to save, as she is doing. Once they've got a decent sum together, they could perhaps consider marriage. Tost's love of intrigue gets the better of his duty as a father and he is thrilled to hear about his daughter Everl's cavorting with a man who has a relationship with another woman in the same building. But Tost has opened a letter that he was supposed to deliver for Walting. Before considering how to rectify this, he reads it. In the letter Walting writes to a creditor, Griffel, that he will soon be able to pay his debts, as the Baron does not have long to live, since he, Walting has persuaded him to undertake a journey that will overtax his fragile health. Only now does Tost observe that Dappel is in the room. On discovering that this is the man who "compromised his daughter", he immediately insists that Dappel marry her. Dappel's protests make no impression on him at all. Dappel realises to his alarm that Agnes has left with Pauline. Radschuh urges him to go to Poland, but Tost still insists on a wedding. The guests toast the happy couple, and Dappel doesn't have the will to extricate himself. - [Chorus]


Act 3. [Chorus of guests] The unhappy Dappel is introduced to everyone in Tost's tavern as Everl's bridegroom. Meanwhile Tost boasts to Emmerenzia and Dörfling that he is "the secret cog in a great wheel of intrigue". There is much excitement at the arrival of a splendid-looking carriage. The occupants enter. It is Moorbach and Agnes, playing the part of a great lady. In a discreeet aside that can nonetheless be heard by all, Moorbach informs Tost that the lady is the young Baroness, i.e. the estranged wife of the old Baron's nephew, now returning in the hope of being reconciled to her husband. Remembering his orders, Tost has a few screws loosened on their carriage, and sends word to Walting. He is enormously proud of his role in the plot. Moorbach has promised to pay Agnes 800 guilders if she follows his instructions and doesn't reveal her identity to anyone.
Emmerenzia takes the opportunity to ask the young Baroness to give employment to all the men in her family. To her surprise and delight, her requests are granted, as is Tost's wish for a title. The Baroness's generosity almost makes him regret his role in the intrigue against her. Everl thinks she recognises Agnes, but her father dismisses her doubts. Father and daughter now press Dappel to ask for a title for himself. To draw the lady's attention to Dappel, they dress him as a gardener who is to hand her a bouquet of flowers. A resigned Dappel lets them dress him as they wish, without understanding what is happening. As he hands over the bouquet, he is sure he recognises the recipient, but her ladylike manner makes him doubt his own eyes. She recognises him, but plays her role to the hilt, though she almost drops the mask for an instant when expressing a ladylike objection to the impending nuptials.
Seeing Walting and his lackeys approach, Moorbach accuses Tost of treachery. Before Dappel can make up his mind whether to try to save her, Walting's men abduct the lady and Moorbach. - [Chorus of Walting's lackeys]


Act 4. Walting confronts Tost about the letter. He knows it has not reached Griffel, so Tost admits to having lost it. But Everl tells her father she took the letter and sent it to the Baron, in the hope that the lady will relent over her marriage to Dappel. - [Trio Dappel/Everl/Tost] - Dappel finally summons up the nerve to tell Everl he doesn't want to marry her, and in a fit if pique she throws him out. Tost meanwhile is frightened of the Baron's wrath, especially when Jean arrives with a summons to go straight to Walting.
At the mansion, Tost suddenly takes fright and hides in the armoury. Then Agnes overhears a conversation between Jean and Anton, in which Anton voices his suspicion that Walting will have the young Baroness murdered that night. Dappel has secretly entered the castle to try to save her. Agnes joyfully throws her arms around him. They decide to make their escape by tying curtains together and descending through a window into the garden. During the preparations a shot goes off in the armoury and Agnes faints in terror. When she revives, she confesses to Tost, whose jittery hands had pressed a trigger by mistake, that he doesn't need to kill her because she is just a farm girl in disguise. The equally terrified Tost is more interested in using Agnes' escape route, but while they are arguing who should climb down first, Walting and his men enter and things look black. The Baron arrives in the nick of time. Pauline has told him of the real state of affairs. Rudolf is restored to his inheritance. Agnes is generously rewarded by Moorbach. With the money she will buy her own farm and marry Dappel, who is deliriously happy.


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