The Maidens Of Schilda
In three acts by ALBAN FORSTER.
Text by RUDOLF BUNGE.
The first work of this composer was produced on the stage of the Royal
Dresden theatre on the twelfth of October 1889 and was received with
great applause. This surprising success is due firstly to the great
popularity, which Forster enjoyed as former Director of the renowned
"Liedertafel" (Society for vocal music) and as teacher, and then to the
numerous pretty melodies intermixed with national airs, in which
particularly the old "Dessauer march" is skilfully interwoven, then the
wellknown student air "Was kommt dort von der Hoeh'", which of course
gladdens the heart of every student old or young.
Nevertheless it might be called an Operette rather than an Opera. The
text at least does not range any higher, it is often almost silly, the
rhymes bad and unequal.
Nevertheless those who like to be amused by a light and agreeable flow
of music may pass a merry evening, listening to the droll exploits of
the two Schilda maidens.--Schilda and Schildburghers are in
Germany synonymous with narrow mindedness, which is indeed strongly
marked in the inhabitants of this out-of-the way town.
The scene is laid in the last century.
In the first act an order of the Prince of Dessau calls all the
youngsters of Schilda to arms.--The chief magistrate with the
characteristic name of Ruepelmei (Ruepel=Clown), who has already given to
the town so many wise laws, as for instance the one, which decrees that
the Schilda maidens under thirty are not allowed to marry--now
demonstrates to his two nieces, Lenchen and Hedwig, the benefit of his
legislation, in as much as they might otherwise be obliged to take
leave of their husbands. He wants to marry one of them himself, but
they have already given their hearts to two students and only laugh at
their vain uncle. This tyrant now orders all the maidens to be locked
up in a place of safety every evening, in order to guard them from
outsiders; further the worthy Schildaers resolve to build a wall, which
is to shut them out from the depraved world.
While Ruepelmei is still reflecting upon these ingenious ideas, a French
Courier, the Marquis de Maltracy enters, imploring the Burgomaster to
hide him from the Prussian pursuers, who are on his track. He promises
a cross of honor to the ambitious Ruepelmei, who at once hides him in
the Town-hall.--Meanwhile a chorus of students approaches, who have
left Halle to avoid being enlisted in the army. Lenchen and Hedchen,
recognizing their sweet-hearts among them, greet them joyfully,
and when Ruepelmei appears, they propitiate him by flattery.
A lively scene of student-life ensues, in which the maidens join, after
their old night-guardian Schlump has been intoxicated.
Ruepelmei returning and seeing this spectacle, orders the police to
seize the students, but instead of doing so, they thrust him into the
very same barrel, which he has invented for the punishment of male
citizens, and so he is obliged to be as impotent spectator of their
In the second act he has been liberated by his faithful citizens; the
students have escaped and the maidens are waiting to be locked up in
their place of refuge.--But in the shades of evening the two students,
Berndt and Walter return and are hidden by their sweet-hearts, Lenchen
and Hedchen among the other maidens, after having put on female
garments.--They all have hardly disappeared in the Town-hall, when the
Prince of Dessau arrives with his Grenadiers to seize the students, of
whose flight to Schilda he has been informed.--Ruepelmei tells him, that
he has captured and killed many of them, but the Prince, disbelieving
him, orders his soldiers to search the houses beginning with the
Town-hall. Ruepelmei, remembering the Marquis, implores him to desist
from his resolution, the Town-hall being the nightly asylum for
Schilda's daughters, but in vain. Schlump, the snoring guardian is
awakened and ordered to open the door to the room, where the
maidens are singing and frolicking with their guests.--The Marquis de
Maltracy has also introduced himself, but perceiving that he is a spy,
they all turn from him in disdain; when the Prussian Grenadiers are
heard, they quickly hide him in a large trunk.
The Prince, finding all those pretty girls, is quite affable, and a
general dancing and merry-making ensues, during which the students
vainly try to escape, when suddenly two of the Grenadiers perceive that
their respective beauties have beards.--The students are discovered and
at once ordered to be put into the uniform, while Ruepelmei is arrested
and handcuffed notwithstanding his protestations.
When the third act opens, drilling is going on in the town, and Walter
and Berndt are among the recruits.
Lenchen and Hedwig arrive with the other girls to free the
students.--They flatter the drill-sergeant, and soon the drilling is
forgotten--and they are dancing merrily, when the Prince of Dessau
arrives in the midst of the fun and threatens to have the officer shot
for neglect of duty and the students as deserters. While the maidens
are entreating him to be merciful, Berndt suddenly remembers the French
Courier. He quickly relates to the Prince, that they have captured a
French Marquis, who has a most important document in his possession,
the plan of war. The Prince promising to let them free, if that proves
to be true, the Marquis is conducted before the Prince, and the
latter discovers that he is a messenger to the King of France, and that
his letter is to show how the French army might attack the Prussians
unawares. By this discovery the Germans are saved, for Dessau has time
to send an officer to Saxony with orders to occupy Dresden before the
arrival of the enemy.
Of course, the students are set free, and each of them obtains an
office and the hand of his maiden besides. The luckless Ruepelmei is
also liberated, being too much of a fool, to deserve even the Prince's
scorn, who further decrees that the foolish town may keep their
Burgomaster, as best suited to their narrow-mindedness.
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