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Mein Freund

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Mein Freund
My Friend

A Farce with songs in 3 Acts and a Prologue
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 4th April 1851

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Spaltner, owner of a printing press
Fanny, his daughter
Julius Fint,
Schlicht, printers employed by Spaltner (Schlicht originally played by Nestroy)
Hochinger, a bricklayer
Theres, his wife
Marie, their daughter
Hummer, owner of a lending library
Schippl, his assistant
Stein, a jeweller
Frau von Stein, his second wife
Clementine, Stein’s daughter from his first marriage
Madame Sauvegarde, Clementine’s companion
Anton, servant, Lisette, maid, in Stein’s house
Felber, clerk in an information bureau
A servant, a maid, a cook

Stuzl, a little boy
Jacob, servant to Hummer
Caterer in the casino

Eva, his wife
Toni, their daughter
Ladies and gentlemen at a casino

Scene: The Prologue takes place in Spaltner’s house in the provinces. The action of the main play happens six years later in the capital.

Prologue. To Spalter's regret, his chief printer Julius Fint is leaving the printing press to become independent. Spaltner now wants to pass the business on to his subordinate Schlicht, together with the hand of his daughter Fanny. But Schlicht declines, declaring that he is in love with another woman. Spaltner respects his decision, but makes him promise to leave town so that Fanny no longer has to see him. Spaltner also offers him a generous loan, but again Schlicht declines. - He now asks his friend Julius to deliver a farewell letter to his love Amalie. Julius hears about the offer of a loan, forges an IOU from Schlicht for 2,000 guilders, and presents it "on Schlicht's behalf" in order to get the money for himself. Spaltner gladly pays, but is puzzled later when Schlicht, who has since changed his mind, asks for the loan after all. When Schlicht learns that Julius has taken the money, he manages to substitute a real IOU for the forged one before leaving town. He is disappointed at Julius' deception but convinces himself that "once a friend, always a friend".

Act 1. Six years later in a large town. Marie, the new librarian, has brought several new customers to the library since taking up her post, and that irritates her colleague Schippl. He advises her mother that Marie had better resign from the library since, through working there, she has fallen in love with the rakish Baron Hohenfint (none other than Julius). - Marie and her parents are delighted when their cousin Schlicht, whom they haven't seen for years, turns up in town. Hochinger, who is poor but insists on keeping up appearances, generously offers his cousin board and lodging. Alone with Hochinger, Schlicht relates how 6 years ago he had to leave his beloved Amalie behind, only to receive a letter 2 weeks later from his friend Julius stating that Amalie had married someone else.
Schlicht is introduced to Hummer and given the job of managing the library. Schippl is furious, especially when Hummer tells him off for being unfriendly to customers. Marie warns Schlicht about Schippl's animosity, but Schlicht replies: "I once had a friend, and since then I have never worried about enemies." - Clementine von Stein thinks the library is an ideal place for a rendezvous with Julius, but Julius feels inhibited by the watching Marie. Clementine is trying to decide if she should go to the casino ball wearing diamonds or not. Julius suggests she make her decision dependent on the colour of ribbon Marie wears in her hair the next day. If it's red she'll wear diamonds, if it's blue she won't. When Clementine goes, Julius assures Marie that he is only in love with her. He asks her to wear a red ribbon in her hair, since it reminds him of his dead sister. Marie gladly agrees. Schippl warns Marie about "the Baron", but she refuses to listen. - Herr and Frau von Stein arrive at the library, worried about the relationship between their daughter Clementine and Baron Hohenfint. An astonished Schlicht recognizes Frau von Stein as his long lost love Amalie. She promises to meet him in secret and explain everything. Schippl eavesdrops as they discuss the arrangements: Amalie will have a book collected later that day, and Schlicht is to write instructions as to where and when to meet on the last page.


Act 2. Schippl turns up at Stein's house. Clementine assumes he has come to tell her father about her friendship with Baron Hohenfint, and bribes him to keep silent. In fact Schippl is there to tell Stein about his wife's secret tryst with Schlicht. Meanwhile Amalie has received the book with Schlicht's instructions, but sends Lisette back to the library with the book and a letter asking Schlicht to visit her at home. Lisette is intercepted by Stein before she can leave the house. Stein finds the message from Schlicht on the last page asking Amalie to come to Hochinger's house. He doesn't find the letter. Stein wants to confront his wife at once, but Schippl persuades him to wait until evening.
Lisette brings Schlicht to see Amalie. She tells him that six years before, Julius had told her that Schlicht had gone off with another woman, which is why she gave in to her father's urging and married the widowed Stein. To her amazement, Schlicht seems untroubled by this revelation. Amalie asks him never to come back and hopes that his path through life may be less troubled than her own. Schlicht seems surprisingly phlegmatic: "And thus our love story, so promising at the start, ends like a novel whose author has died in the middle of chapter 2". - Back home with Hochinger Schlicht pours his heart out, for the meeting with Amalie has in truth distressed him greatly.
In the meantime Julius has asked for Marie's hand in marriage. Her father would prefer Schlicht as a son-in-law, but after Amalie Schlicht has no interest in a loving relationship. Marie suspects that Schlicht and Julius know each other, but Schlicht denies it adamantly, and Julius denies it too. Stein then confronts Schlicht about the tryst with his wife, and Schlicht coolly assures him that a meeting was arranged but Amalie then refused to see him. Furious at Schlicht's behaviour, Stein threatens him with violence, Hummer dismisses him from his post at the library, and Hochinger turns him out of the house. Schlicht takes it all without complaint and promises to leave town in half an hour.
At the ball Julius persuades Clementine, who is of course bedecked with diamonds, to elope with him. He sends her with Schippl, who has offered his services, to stay with the Kogl family in Finsterbach, promising to follow her in an hour. But Schlicht intercepts Julius and accuses him of destroying his happiness with Amalie. Never at a loss for a reply, Julius explains that he acted in friendship, since in any case Amalie's father would have refused his consent. When Schlicht reminds him of the forged IOU, which he still has in his possession, Julius shrugs it off as "youthful recklessness" and offers to repay the money in exchange for the IOU, but Schicht prefers to keep it as evidence of Julius' "friendship". Julius is relieved to hear that Schlicht is leaving town, but the latter warns him that, if he makes Marie unhappy, Schlicht will return and hold him to account. At that moment Stein sounds the alarm, having realised that his daughter has disappeared with 100,000 guilders worth of diamonds. He immediately suspects "the Baron", but Julius is not only still at the ball but explains that he has no interest in Clementine as he is to marry Marie.


Act 3. Clementine is ecstatic when Julius finally arrives in Finsterbach. He generously rewards the Kogls for looking after her and asks if she may stay for one more day. Julius must return to town, to deflect any suspicion from himself and to secure his escape route. He asks Clementine for the diamonds, explaining that he cannot rest easy until he has returned them to her father.
Schippl is paying court to Kogl's daughter Toni, unaware that she is making fun of him. Schlicht tracks him down him and warns him that Julius was after the diamonds, not the girl, and that Schippl could be charged as an accomplice and sentenced to years in prison. Under the circumstances, Schippl decides to help Schlicht. - Later, Julius hides the diamonds in a hollow tree, unaware that Schlicht is watching him.
At Hummer's house Hochinger, Therese and Marie are joyfully preparing for the wedding. When Julius appears, he accuses Marie of being unfaithful, calls off the wedding and storms out in a rage. Marie collapses in a faint.
Stein now confronts Julius with his growing suspicions and accuses him of fabricating an excuse to break with Marie. Under pressure, Julius agrees to return to Marie and beg her forgiveness. He has made a mistake and the wedding should proceed forthwith. But at that moment Schlicht enters with Clementine, and hands the diamonds over to Stein. The game is up for Julius, and he asks Schlicht's forgiveness and gives him 10,000 guilders. Schlicht wants to give the money to Marie as a dowry, but Hochinger suggests Schlicht marry her himself and he good-naturedly agrees, though they decide to keep the plan secret from Marie while she recovers from the shock with Julius. Instead of being charged as Julius' accomplice, Schippl returns to his post at the library on an increased salary.


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