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Der Talisman

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Der Talisman
The Talisman

A Farce with songs in 3 Acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 16th December 1840

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Titus Feuerfuchs, a peripatetic barber (originally played by Nestroy)
Frau von Cypressenburg, a widow
Emma, her daughter
Constantia, her chambermaid, a widow
Flora Baumscheer, Frau von Cypressenburg's gardener, a widow
Plutzerkern, a menial
Monsieur Marquis, a hairdresser
Salome Pockerl, who keeps geese
Seppel, farmhands
Hannerl, a farm girl
Herr von Platt
Falck, a notary
Conrad, servants to Frau von Cypressenburg
Spund, Titus' uncle

Scene: The action takes place on the estate Frau von Cypressenburg near a large town

Act 1. [Chorus] - All the young people in the village make fun of Salome because of her red hair. Another redhead, the barber Titus Feuerfuchs (lit. Firefox), has just arrived in the village and chastises in song the people who ostracize him because of the colour of his hair. - [Song, Titus] - He bumps into Plutzerkern, who assumes he is the new apprentice gardener on Frau von Cypressenburg's estate. Titus shows interest in the job. Salome, seeing in Titus a fellow sufferer, tries to get him a job at the bakery, but the baker refuses to employ a redhead.
Titus has caught a runaway horse belonging to Monsieur Marquis, the hairdresser. Marquis rewards him with the gift of a black wig, as a memento and talisman. - Thanks to the wig, Titus gets a job as assistant to Flora, the head gardener on the estate of Frau von Cypressenburg. The widowed Flora gives him her deceased husband's suit to wear, drops hints that marriage to her would secure him a permanent post. - [Chorus]

Act 2. - [Chorus] - Constantia, Frau von Cypressenburg's lady-in-waiting, is equally attracted by Titus' black hair and employs him to hunt on the estate. Like Flora, she gives him her dead husband's suit to wear, with further heavy hints about marriage and permanent employment. - When Salome comes to the estate looking for her red-headed friend, she is astonished to see him in a black wig, but decides not to give him away. Then Monsieur Marquis arrives, and immediately recognizes the wig and its wearer. However, he whispers that he will also keep Titus' secret as long as he keeps his filthy hands off Constantia, with whom the hairdresser has been having an affair. But Marquis happens to hear Titus muttering in his sleep about Constantia, and gently removes the wig and leaves the house.
Titus is woken by the sound of Frau von Cypressenburg's arrival, realizes the wig has gone, quickly dons another without looking at the colour and courteously presents himself to the widowed lady of the house, who is so attracted by this charming blond young man that she employs him as her secretary and gives him the suit of her deceased husband to wear. To secure his new position and avoid embarrassment over his sudden change of hair colour, Titus tells his new employer about the affair between her lady-in-waiting and the hairdresser, and about Flora the gardener's proposal of marriage, and she immediately has them all dismissed. - [Song, Titus: "Time changes everything"] - Just as Frau von Cypressenburg is introducing Titus to her literary society, Flora and Constantia arrive to complain about their dismissal. They insist that they know Titus as a man with black hair. He is finally exposed when the hairdresser arrives. To general horror, Titus removes the wig, revealing his red hair. - [Chorus, the literary society]

Act 3. Titus has been thrown off the estate and been made to return the suits. Salome meanwhile meets Spund, Titus' uncle and only relative, who has often berated his nephew over the colour of his hair. Spund has inherited a large sum of money and wants to set Titus up in business so that he can make a modest living and avoid bringing shame on the family. When Spund hears that Titus is working as a servant on the estate, he dashes there to free him from this ignominious activity. When they hear at the mansion about this rich relation, Titus is immediately asked to return. To spare them the sight of his red hair, he innocently dons the dead gardener's grey wig. Meanwhile Flora, Constantia (who has been dumped by the hairdresser) and even Frau von Cypressenburg have all come independently to the conclusion that red hair is actually quite becoming on a rich man.
Titus in his grey wig meets Spund and tells him that grief over his uncle's behaviour towards him turned his hair grey in one night. Spund is so conscience-stricken that he makes Titus his sole heir. At that moment Salome appears, having been sent by Plutzerkern to retrieve the grey wig. Titus has to expose his red hair yet again. Frau von Cypressenburg saves the situation by insisting that Spund knew it was a wig all along. But Titus rejects the inheritance and the marriage proposals of Flora and Constantia, since he knows they were only after his money. Instead he will marry Salome and, with Spund's help, open a shop


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