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Friedrich, Prinz von Korsika

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Friedrich, Prinz von Korsika
Friedrich, Prince of Corsica

Romantic-historical drama in five acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 18th December 1841
[Based on an early 18th century short story, Prinz Friedrich, by Karl Franz van der Velde.]

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Theodor Hassan, Ambassador of the Bey of Tunis
Don Giafferi
Marchese Giabicomi, Captain of the Corsican Guard
Lucioni, a Corsican Major
An adjutant, a field doctor, a corporal, a private (all in the Corsican army)

Marchese Franchi, a captain in the Genoese army
Olympia, the widowed Countess of Frescobaldi
Marquis von Maillebois, a General in the French army
Count Trevoux, a Lieutenant in the French army
Moratti, a Lieutenant on Giafferi’s corvette
A Spanish soldier
A Lieutenant in the Livorno Militia
A Procurator of Genoa
His clerk

Lauretta, the Countess’s maid
Bondelli, a Corsican innkeeper in Livorno
Lucia, a maid
A Dutch Jew
An art dealer in Livorno
Army officers in Livorno

Fregoso, a traveller, scion of a noble family in Genoa
Friedrich Schmidtberg, a young painter
von Wachtendouck, a historian
Horra, leader of a band of gypsies
Wlaska, an old gypsy woman
Kilwar, gypsies
Mirina, a gypsy girl
Kusko, a gypsy boy
A gypsy woman, knights and ladies of Livorno, citizens of Cologne, servants, pages

Act 1 The action takes place on the East Bank of the Rhine opposite Cologne in September 1735
Act 2 The action takes place in Livorno in May 1736
Acts 3 & 4 The action takes place in Corsica one month later
Act 5 The action takes place in Livorno at the beginning of October 1736.

Act 1. The play opens with Fregoso and Wachtendouck quarrelling in a tavern. Friedrich Schmidtberg intervenes on behalf of his friend Fregoso. In the ensuing duel Fregoso is killed and Friedrich is wounded in the arm. Alma tends his wounds. He can hardly believe she is a gypsy. Count Trevoux appears and claims to be Friedrich’s cousin, though Friedrich is entirely ignorant of his aristocratic antecedents. Trevoux gives Friedrich a letter from his father, the Duke of Neuhof, telling him of his family history and ordering him to continue his military training and travel to Livorno in May to await further orders at Bondelli’s tavern. The letter contains a bill of exchange for over 1,000 ducats. To protect him from approaching soldiers searching for Fregoso’s killer, Alma hides him in a gypsy camp, where Wlaska reads Friedrich’s palm and foretells a dark future. Horra, the gypsy leader, is at first tempted by the reward on Friedrich’s head, but then offers him hospitality. When the soldiers arrive, he shows Friedrcih an escape route and asks only that, should he ever be in a position of influence, Friedrich will try to improve the gypsies’ lot. Alma and Friedrich take a sorrowful leave of each other.

Act 2. Friedrich has arrived in Livorno at Bondelli’s inn. A message from his father has failed to intercept him in Milan. So he is astonished when Bondelli, without explanation, warns him against using his own name and suggests he call himself Freiherr von Kronenstein. Alone, Friedrich spies on the table a manifesto against his father by the Doge, the Governor and the Procurator of Genoa. In a rage he tears it up, crumples it and throws it out of the window, hitting a young lady in the process. Mortified, he dashes out to apologise and runs straight into the Procurator, who demands his arrest. The beautiful young lady is Countess Olympia, and amongst her companions is Count Giaffieri, commander-in-chief of the Corsican armed forces. The trusting Friedrich reveals his true identity and learns to his amazement that his father Theodor has been made King of Corsica. A few more victories are necessary to free all of Corsica from Genoese rule. Friedrich is asked to travel to the island with Giaffieri. A that moment the Procurator returns with soldiers to arrest Friedrich. With a cunning ruse Friedrich manages to the arrest warrant suspended. Giaffieri urges him to depart at once, but Friedrich is determined to see Olympia again, and they swear eternal love for each other. Olympia gives Friedrich bills of exchange to support Corsica’s struggle against the Genoese, explaining that she will only accept repayment when Friedrich is King of Corsica. The Procurator has acquired a second warrant, so Friedrich and Giaffieri make a hasty exit.

Act 3. Friedrich is united with his father during the Siege of Bastia. En route he and Giaffieri have won a battle against the Genoese, but one of their generals has fallen into Corsican hands. When news reaches Theodor of this general’s execution, his Tunisian adviser Hassan recommends that he retaliate by executing the captured Genoese Franchi, but Friedrich urges his father to spare Franchi’s life. Theodor explains his dilemma to Friedrich: he urgently needs more funds to continue the struggle, and Tunis has been generous in its support. However, Friedrich believes Theodor should dispense with Hassan’s services as quickly as possible, and helps Theodor in his hour of need by handing over the funds he received from Olympia. Meanwhile, a band of gypsies has been condemned to death and is brought before Friedrich, who recognises Horra, pardons them all and enlists them as soldiers in his service. Alma is also amongst them and Friedrich immediately falls in love with her again. Wlaska interprets Friedrich’s behaviour as arrogance and prophesies that no good will come of it. When Friedrich makes advances, Wlaska frees Alma from his embrace and repeats her warning. Trevoux then appears to tell Friedrich that Olympia has arrived in Corsica and that Theodor is planning her formal engagement to Friedrich that evening. Meanwhile, Giabicomi and Lucioni are plotting to overthrow Theodor, in return for which Genoa has promised them an amnesty. Alma observes how happy Friedrich is at his bride’s side, but Wlaska drags her away. Before the celebrations can begin, Giaffieri brings Friedrich an order from Theodor to ride at once with 300 riders to Porto Vecchio to put down a conspiracy. Almost at once Moratti announces that the Genoese have already arrived at the city from Porto Vecchio and are preparing to storm the castle. Horra warns of traitors in their own ranks, but Friedrich only takes the warning seriously when Horra is hit by a bullet intended for Friedrich and fired from their own ranks. The dying Horra tries to convey a last important message to Friedrich but can only whisper the name “Alma”. Trevoux admits that, in a moment of madness, he passed on important papers to the conspirators. He then tells Friedrich that Olympia has gone to meet the Genoese governor, but Friedrich refuses to believe that Olympia has deserted him. In the meantime, the Genoese have conquered most of the city, and Friedrich exhorts those loyal to him to follow him and free the city.


Act 4. The Genoese have captured Friedrich but failed to recognise him, so have spared his life. Finally Franchi manages to free him from the dungeon. He takes Friedrich to Wlaska, who hands him a letter from Olympia explaining that she believes his cause in Corsica to be lost and has therefore departed to Livorno. Friedrich is in despair. The Corsican fortunes are indeed at an ebb, as the Genoese are now being supported by the French. Wlaska manages to convey Friedrich via secret paths to his father at Sorracco. At night she secretly steals three of his hairs. She then wakes him and explains her plan: for some time she has been gathering poison in bags, which Friedrich is to throw into the river to poison the Genoese. She has also prepared a magic concoction which, when emptied into the sea, can create a tidal wave. That should delay the ships that are coming to support the Genoese. Horrified, Friedrich rejects her fiendish plan. He will seek victory only through the sword. Meanwhile Theodor’s financial difficulties are coming to a head. A Jew is demanding repayment of a huge sum. Hassan advises Theodor to solve the problem by murdering the money-lender, and after much soul-searching, he agrees. When Friedrich learns of the plan he is appalled. He immediately persuades Theodor to rescind the order, but Hassan has already carried it out. In a rage, Friedrich stabs the Tunisian to death. Theodor is so aghast at the loss of his last ally that he curses Friedrich before fleeing the island ahead of the advancing Genoese. Friedrich and a handful of his men stay behind in a tower surrounded by Genoese soldiers. Trevoux, who is now on the side of the Genoese, offers Friedrich safe passage to Livorno on behalf of General Maillebois, and Friedrich accepts.

Act 5. Friedrich is back in Bondelli’s inn at Livorno. For three months he has lain there, half insane and at the brink of death. He is sure that in his fever he recognised Alma at his bedside, but Bondelli says that no gypsy girl has been near him and that his only nurse was Count Giaffieri’s daughter. As wedding bells are heard outside, the maid Lucia informs him that they are for the wedding of Olympia and the French Marquis de Maillebois. In despair, Friedrich rushes out into the street, where he learns by chance that his father has been drowned at sea. Lucia Bondelli then repeats a rumour she has heard: that an old gypsy woman has confessed on her deathbed that she and her band once robbed the wife of General Giaffieri, kidnapped her little daughter and brought her up among gypsies. She has now, it seems, returned his daughter to him along with clear proofs of her identity. As the wedding procession passes, Friedrich steps into Olympia’s path and demands an explanation. At first she denies knowing him, then claims that he is mad. In rage and frustration, Friedrich swoons. Alma and Count Giaffieri rush to his side. On recovering consciousness, Friedrich tells Alma he loves her, but reminds her that, having chosen another bride, he is not worthy of her love, but Alma has long since forgiven him and decides he has suffered enough. A delighted Giaffieri, now a Colonel in the service of the King of Naples, makes Friedrich a Captain of the Guard and grants him the hand of Alma the gypsy, aka his daughter Isabella.


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