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Glück, Mißbrauch und Rückkehr

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Glück, Mißbrauch und Rückkehr
oder Das Geheimnis des grauen Hauses

Good Fortune, Misuse and Return
or The Mystery of the Grey House

A farce with songs in 5 acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 10th March 1838

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Blasius Rohr, a lawyer's clerk (originally played by Nestroy)
Herr von Sonnenstern
Theodor, his son
Bernhard Brand, Theodor's friend
Herr von Eisenkorn, Rohr's uncle
Madame Berning, a milliner
Babette, her daughter
Rochus, Theodor's servant
Marquise Folleville
Frau von Salting
Herr von Halwig, friend of Sonnenstern senior
Herr von Morberg,
Herr von Fernbach, friends of Theodor
Frau Lenerl, a confectioner
Stock, a farmer in the Riesengebirge
Eva, his wife
Steffel, Seppel, Hansel, Michel, his sons
Herr von Klippenbach
Aurora, his daughter
Mucki, brother to Herr von Klippenbach
Riegel, a gatekeeper
Brigitte, his daughter
Christian, servant
Sabine Sichel, her old maid
Caretaker, servant to Sonnenstern
Hiesel, farmhands
Ladies and gentlemen, clerks, musicians, peasants, servants

The action of Acts 1 and 5 take place in town, and of 2,3 and 4 in the Riesengebirge district. The interval between each act is always one month.

Act 1. [Chorus] – [Song, Blasius: "I've already copied 5 complaints today"] - Blasius and Brand are invited to a ball by their old school chum Theodor. In contrast to his old friends, who are poor as church mice, Theodor is very rich and keeps a servant, Rochus. - [Song, Rochus: "There's no point enlightening people when they can't see what's staring them in the face"] - Blasius makes an unfavourable impression at the ball with his boorishness and over-familiarity, and is particularly loud in praise of the virtues of his girlfriend Babette. Theodor and his friends decide to get him drunk and make an ass of him. - Meanwhile Babette and her mother Madame Berning are in their shop awaiting Blasius' return . The mother has a poor opinion of her daughter's "beau", but Babette is convinced he will soon earn enough to marry her. Herr von Eisenkorn enters the shop. He is Blasius’ uncle (though he has never seen his nephew), and he hands the astonished Madame Berning the deeds to a factory which are a gift to Blasius. Eisenkorn departs with a promise to return one day and see Blasius as the head of a flourishing business. Blasius now staggers in blind drunk, supported by Rochus. Learning of his sudden good fortune, he decides to sell the factory in order to buy a castle and make Rochus his own servant. He breaks with Babette, deciding that she is now too far below him in status. - [Blasius and chorus]

Act 2. Blasius, having taken a fancy to Aurora, the spoilt daughter of Herr von Klippenbach, lends his new carriage to the Klippenbachs and must now make his way on foot, in the company of Rochus, Brand and Theodor, to his newly purchased Castle of Felsenstein. A storm is brewing and the friends take refuge with a farmer's family, who tell them about a mysterious empty grey house in the forest, and a smaller house nearby in which an equally mysterious young woman lives with her old servant Sabine. Among the rumours circulating about this young woman, Friederike, are that she is a witch, the only survivor (as a child) of a farmer family that died out, furthermore that she is very rich and, unusually for these parts, able to read and write. The friends immediately demand to be taken there. On arrival they meet the servant Sabine and the two women's only regular visitor, Brigitte. - [Song, Brigitte: "Everything is as pretty as it was."] - Sabine turns out to be the mother of Rochus, who has gone ahead to prepare a splendid reception for his master. Friederike is singularly unimpressed by the new owner of Felsenstein Castle. – Meanwhile the Klippenbachs reach the castle ahead of their host, and Herr Klippenbach, well aware of the new owner’s interest in his daughter, begins planning expensive rebuilding works to ascertain if Blasius is really rich enough to be a suitable son-in-law. - [Chorus]

Act 3. Rochus cannot persuade his mother or Brigitte to reveal the secrets of the grey house, and Theodor, who has fallen in love with Friederike, cannot get her to tell him anything either. The friends decide to break into the house themselves. - [Duet Blasius/Brigitte: "Art and Nature"] - In their search of the house they find pistols, wine, riding boots, a well-stocked bookcase and hay in the stable for a horse, all pointing to a male occupant, of whom Theodor is immediately jealous.


Act 4. The Klippenbachs have insisted on equipping the castle from top to bottom with gas lighting to illuminate Blasius’ arrival, and after all this extravagance they now suspect their host may be running out of money, in which case he can be discounted as a suitor for Aurora. - Theodor becomes aware of a light in the grey house, hides and observes Friederike in conversation with its mysterious male occupant. This man, it turns out, is her father, who is not a simple farmer as rumoured, but Blasius' uncle, Herr von Eisenkorn, who has raised her in the woods after his wife’s death and now hopes to marry her to his nephew, the new factory owner. – Meanwhile Brand (now the only pauper among the three friends) concocts a hare-brained scheme to have Friederike abducted and then rescue her, in order to win a reward from a grateful Theodor. The plan goes wrong when Blasius inadvertently rescues her instead, and the Klippenbachs arrive just as Friederike has fainted into his arms, thus confirming their decision to discount him as a husband for Aurora. Everyone’s attention is suddenly distracted by the sight of Castle Felsenstein in flames, the result of Herr Klippenbach's excessive enthusiasm for gas lighting. The Klippenbachs depart, taking Blasius’ carriage and horses as compensation for their wardrobe, which has been destroyed in the fire.

Act 5. Back in town, the lonely and impoverished Blasius sits playing his violin. Babette will not forgive him for ditching her, and sheer misery makes him unable to work. Rochus keeps him afloat with occasional jobs as a lackey or musician. – [Song, Blasius: “You can get used to anything in time”] – It is time for Friederike to emerge from her woodland life, and Herr von Eisenkorn is giving a ball for her in town, at which Theodor hopes to renew his courtship of her. Rochus arranges for Blasius to play at the ball, but, hearing that the host von Eisenkorn is Friederike’s father (and still unaware that he is also his own uncle), Blasius decides instead to appear as Friederike’s rescuer “Herr von Felsenstein” in the hope of a large reward. The plan succeeds until the unforgiving Babette exposes him to Eisenkorn as his good-for-nothing nephew, who sold the deeds to the factory and ditched her in the process. Eisenkorn gives the reward to Babette as compensation for her ill-treatment, and, mollified, she agrees to marry Blasius who promises henceforth to earn an honest living as a musician.


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