Rübezahl, Prince of Gnomes
Weiss, a miller,
Schwarz, a charcoal burner,
Roth, a sedan chair carrier (originally played by Nestroy), relations
and business partners
Frau Gertrud, a rich landlady and widow living near town
Mamsell Margareth, her sister
Mamsell Sandl, a relative
Martin, a farmer
A chocolate maker and an innkeeper, both from the town
A small boy
Nanett, a maid, and Stephan, an old servant, both in their service of
the business partners
Prompt, bookkeeper of an old trading house
Sandbanck, captain of a merchant ship
Herr von Feldstein, a rich landowner
Abelard, also known as Whitehead,
Sigwart, also known as Blacklocks,
Herfort, also known as Redcheeks, his sons
Herr von Waldbaum
Josephine, his daughters
Magister Baculus, a tutor
Streusand, a notary
Frau Marthe, a rich woman
Klärchen, her daughters
Herr Schwan, a poet
Signor Nero, a singer
Herr Steinröthel, an orchestral conductor
Cajetan, servants to the three artists
Herr von Maus, a friend of the arts
Servant to Fräulein Schmacht
Servant to Frau von Herzbrand
Johann Proczpack, a tailor
Frau Sepherl, his wife
Herr von Pracht, a landlord
Herr Modell, a wax polisher
Ladies and gentlemen, servants, musicians, clerks of court, creditors,
guests, gnomes, genies, countryfolk
Act 1 The action takes place in Vienna
Act 2 The action takes place in Vienna, one year later
Act 3 The action takes place in Brühl, about twenty years later
than in the second act.
Act 1. [Chorus] – Gertrud, Margreth and Sandl are to marry Roth,
Weiss and Schwarz (Red, White and Black) tomorrow, but their joy is sullied
by the behaviour of their bridegrooms, who are getting on in years and
have been increasingly neglectful of their fiancées recently.
The brides wish they had lived 300 years earlier, when spirits came to
one's aid in such situations. At that moment the gnome Rübezahl
appears disguised as a quack and offers his services, but the women decline.
[Song, Roth:"It's no fun being a sedan chair carrier] – Roth
has come into an inheritance and plans to give up his job as a sedan
chair carrier. If only he hadn't got engaged he would be a free man.
Weiss has also lost his enthusiasm for the wedding, having recently embarked
on another relationship. Schwarz encounters his friends in the tavern
where he is trying to hide from his creditors. All Schwarz wants from
marriage is to clear his debts. All three of them feel trapped and are
letting their brides know it through their moodiness, neglect and coarse
behaviour. In his doctor's disguise, Rübezahl listens to the three
men's complaints: how they were once in love with their brides and had
eagerly drawn up marriage contracts, but now see married life as a recipe
for boredom. Rübezahl asks what they want from life, and they answer:
money, romantic love and artistic success. Rübezahl warns that all
these things are sweet to taste on the outside but bitter at the core.
The men are unimpressed by his wisdom. Rübezahl decides to fulfil
their wishes in their dreams and puts them into a deep sleep.
The rest of the action is in the men's dreams. Schwarz, Weiss and Roth
are business partners. A huge legacy has suddenly made them millionaires.
They immediately set about spending the money and organizing a huge party. – [Song,
Nanett: "A ball tonight and a dinner tomorrow"). – Schwarz
happily assumes that the daughters of his wealthy acquaintances will
fall in love with him, while Weiss plans to acquire carriages, country
houses and a French chef. To let them taste wealth's bitter core as well
as its sweet shell, Rübezahl propels their dreams forward by one
year. Roth is now so afraid of robbers stealing his money that he cannot
eat and distrusts everyone including his two partners. Schwarz is despondent
that, despite his money, no woman will look at him now that he is old
and ugly. He summons the doctor, who only confirms that all the money
in the world cannot buy him youth and beauty. Weiss is moody and takes
it out on his servants because nothing gives him pleasure. All three
decide to put an end to their miserable lives, and shoot themselves.
That marks the end of the first dream. Rübezahl now conjures a second
dream, the dream of romantic love.
Act 2. In this dream Weiss appears
as Abelard, Schwarz as Sigwart and Roth as Herfort. These three young
men return home after 12 years away studying. Their father wishes them
to marry Therese, Charlotte and Josephine, the daughters of Herr von
Waldbaum. What their father doesn't know is that all three have already
found brides with whom they are passionately in love: the three sisters
Heloise, Marianne and Klärchen.
[Duet, Klärchen, Herfort: "My Herfort, what is it?"] – Herfort
tells Klärchen of his father's plans. The three pairs of lovers
resolve to kill themselves: the men will hang themselves from trees and
the girls will drown themselves in the river. In the nick of time Herr
von Feldstein arrives, closely followed by Herr von Waldbaum with his
daughters in tow, and the mother of the girls they love. Herr von Waldbaum,
seeing how things stand, withdraws with his daughters, deeply offended.
The mother of Heloise, Marianne and Klärchen then reveals herself
as a rich landlady, and the young people receive their parents' blessing
Rübezahl now shifts the action forward five years. Abelard, Herfort
and Sigwart, who has been drinking heavily since his wedding, are planning
to divorce, because their marriages are marred by bad temper, quarrelling
and physical violence. – [Duet Klärchen, Herfort, in which
neither can understand how they were once so in love.] All six have summoned
the notary for divorce proceedings. The women appear with three Marquis
to take their part, hoping to claim the property without completing the
divorce. Pandemonium breaks out and the notary beats a hasty retreat.
Marquis Pomade has forged bills of exchange for the women in their husbands'
names. The women escape with their noblemen and whatever remains of their
husbands' money. Too late the three dupes realize that their wives have
fled and left them facing an army of creditors. The three are arrested. – [Chorus
of clerks of court and creditors] – the dream of romantic love
is at an end, and Rübezahl now conjures a third and final dream,
the dream of artistic success.
Act 3. In this dream
Weiss appears as the poet Swan, Schwarz as the singer Nero and Roth
as the conductor
Steinröthel. – [Francois
and Chorus of servants] – The three artists are celebrating
their success. Nero in particular is surrounded by rich young female
All three are living it up. – [Nero and Chorus: "I only
need to sing one note“].
Again Rübezahl shifts the action forward several years. Steinröthel
is reduced to copying scores, Swan writes occasional poetry for birthdays,
etc and Nero ekes out a living teaching singing. They are poor and hungry
and cannot pay the rent. – [Song, Steinröthel: "Others
build up capital"] – They starve to death and their landlord
plunders their last few possessions. In death they achieve fame and as
ghosts are forced to watch as the rich pay huge sums for their works
The scene is transformed. – [Chorus of countryfolk] – Gertrud,
Margreth and Sandl are worried what has happened to their bridegrooms.
Rübezahl shows them the sleeping trio. He reveals his identity and
assures them that the men have been cured of their dreams. As Rübezahl
disappears, the men awake happily and embrace their brides. – [Finale]