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Haüptling Abendwind

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Haüptling Abendwind oder Das gräuliche Festmahl
Chief Abendwind, or The Gruesome Feast

An Operetta in 1 act
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 1st February 1862

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Abendwind the Gentle, Chief of the Great-Lulu (originally played by Nestroy)
Atala, his daughter
Biberhahn the Violent, Chief of the Papatutu
Arthur, a stranger
Ho-Gu, Abendwind’s cook
Great-Lulus and Papatutus

Scene: An island in the South Seas

Chief Abendwind (lit. Evening Wind) is awaiting the visit of Biberhahn, chief of the Papatutu, in whose honour a feast is to be given. But the Great-Lulus haven’t had much luck hunting recently. They don’t even have any prisoners they could serve up for dinner. – [Romance, Atala: “Go to sleep, sweet child, let the rustling leaves give you sweet dreams”] – Arthur, a hairdresser, is admiring the splendid scenery of the island when he happens to bump into Atala. – [Duet Arthur, Atala] – Arthur hopes to impress Atala with his professional skill. When this doesn’t succeed, he shows her a musical watch that he wears on a chain, and she likes the sound of it. A trusting Arthur tells Atala his life story: he knows neither his parents nor where he was born. He was brought up by a foster father and trained as a hairdresser. A few weeks ago his foster father instructed him to visit a certain South Sea island to learn about his origins. But his ship was wrecked off the island of the Great Lulu and he was washed ashore. Atala and Arthur are strangely drawn to each other, and Arthur decides to remain on this island for ever. But Atala warns him about the native laws according to which they could both be sentenced to death. She begs Arthur to hide. – Meanwhile Abendwind is increasingly embarrassed at having nothing for his guest to eat and worried this will damage his alliance with the Papatutu. Arthur recklessly emerges from his hiding place, thinking Abendwind is harmless. – [Trio Abendwind, Atala, Arthur] – Abendwind is delighted that this stranger has shown up to save the feast. Atala and Arthur misinterpret his good humour and Arthur decides to ask for Atala’s hand in marriage immediately after supper.
Abendwind instructs his cook how to season and prepare the meal. – [Trio Atala, Abendwind, Biberhahn] – [Song, Biberhahn: “The war chant of the Papatutu”] - As Biberhahn and Abendwind sit down to dinner, Atala is searching for Arthur. During the meal, Biberhahn finds a comb on his plate. Then he nearly chokes on a piece of meat and retrieves a watch chain from between his teeth. After supper Biberhahn tells Abendwind that he is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his son, and intends with Abendwind’s permission to marry him to Atala. Abendwind gladly agrees. Biberhahn tells how he gave his son, a handsome blond boy, to a sea captain to be educated in Europe. As a means of recognition he gave him a musical watch that plays the war chant of the Papatutu. Abendwind begins to feel queasy. – [Duet Biberhahn, Abendwind] – Biberhahn shows him a photo, Abendwind recognises the stranger that they have just eaten and dreads what Biberhahn will do when he discovers the truth. Just as he is wondering how to explain the young man’s disappearance, the watch strikes in Biberhahn’s stomach, and plays a familiar tune. It dawns on Biberhahn what has happened, and he calls on his warriors. To protect himself, Abendwind summons the Sacred White Bear. – [Trio Biberhahn, Abendwind, Atala] – The bear makes straight for Atala and kisses her hand, and beneath the fur she recognises Arthur’s voice. Arthur has bribed Ho-Gu with a trendy new haircut to hide him in the White Bear’s fur and serve up the bear in his place. Biberhahn cannot believe it is his son, especially when the watch plays again inside his stomach, but Arthur immediately recognises the tune and asks for his watch back. Father and son embrace, Arthur and Atala are married, and as part of their reconciliation Biberhahn and Abendwind confess that they each ate the other’s wife. [Finale, Arthur]


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