The Two Grenadiers
In three acts by ALBERT LORTZING.
Text adapted from the French.
After a long interval of quiet Lortzing's charming music seems to be
brought to honor again and no wonder.--The ears of the public grow
overtired, or may we say over-taxed by Wagner's grand music, which his
followers still surpass, though only in noise and external effects;
they long for simplicity, for melody. Well, Lortzing's operas overflow
with real, true, simple melody, and generally in genuine good
humour.--For many years only two of his operas have been performed,
viz, "Undine" and "Czar and Zimmermann".--Now Hamburg has set the good
example, by representing a whole cyclus (seven operas of Lortzing's),
and Dresden has followed with the "Two Grenadiers."
The opera was composed in the year 1837 and is of French origin and
though its music breathes German humour and naivete, the French
influence may be felt clearly. The persons show life and movement, the
music is light-hearted, graceful and truly comic.
The scene takes place in a little country-town, where we find Busch, a
wealthy inn-keeper, making preparations for the arrival of his only
son. The young man had entered a Grenadier regiment at the age of
sixteen, ten years before, so the joyful event of his home-coming is
looked forward to with pleasure by his father and sister Suschen, but
with anxiety by a friend of hers, Caroline, to whom young Busch had
been affianced before joining his regiment.
Enter two young Grenadiers from the regiment on leave, the younger of
whom falls in love with Suschen at first sight. However as the elder
Grenadier, Schwarzbart, dolefully remarks, they are both almost
pennyless and he reflects how he can possibly help them in their need.
His meditations are interrupted by the arrival of the landlord, who,
seeing the two knapsacks, and recognizing one of them as that of his
son, naturally supposes the owner to be his offspring, in which belief
he is confirmed by Schwarzbart, who is induced to practice this
deceit, partly by the desire of getting a good dinner and the means of
quenching his insatiable thirst, partly by the hope of something
turning up in favour of his companion in arms, Wilhelm. As a matter of
fact the knapsack does not belong to Wilhelm at all. On leaving the
inn, at which the banquet following the wedding of one of their
comrades, had been held, the knapsacks had inadvertently been exchanged
much to Wilhelm's dismay, his own containing a lottery ticket which, as
he has just learnt, had won a great prize. The supposed son is of
course received with every demonstration of affection by his fond
parent, but though submitting with a very good grace to the endearments
of his supposed sister--the maiden, with whom he had fallen in love so
suddenly--he resolutely declines being hugged and made much of by the
old landlord, this double-part being entirely distasteful to his
straightforward nature. Nor does his affianced bride, the daughter of
the bailiff, fare any better, his affections being placed elsewhere,
and their bewilderment is only somewhat appeased by Schwarzbart's
explanation that his comrade suffers occasionally from weakness of the
In the next act Peter, a youth of marvellous stupidity and cousin of
the bailiff, presents himself in a woful plight, to which he has been
reduced by some soldiers at the same wedding festivities, and shortly
after Gustav, the real son appears on the scene. He is a manly fellow,
full of tender thoughts for his home. Great is therefore his
surprise at finding himself repulsed by his own father, who not
recognizing him, believes him to be an impostor. All the young man's
protestations are of no avail, for in his knapsack are found the papers
of a certain Wilhelm Stark, for whom he is now mistaken.--When silly
Peter perceives him, he believes him to be the Grenadier, who had so
ill-treated him at the wedding, though in reality it was Schwarzbart.
Gustav is shut up in a large garden-house of his father's; the small
town lacking a prison.
In the third act the Magistrate has found out that Wilhelm's papers
prove him to be the bailiff's son, being the offspring of his first
love ----, who had been with a clergyman, and who, after the death of
the bailiff's wife is vainly sought for by his father. Of course this
changes everything for the prisoner, who is suddenly accosted
graciously by his gruff guardian Barsch, and does not know what to make
of his mysterious hints.
Meanwhile Caroline's heart has spoken for the stranger, who had
addressed her so courteously and chivalrously; she feels that, far from
being an impostor, he is a loyal and true-hearted young fellow and
therefore decides to liberate him. At the same time enter Wilhelm with
Schwarzbart, seeking Suschen; Peter slips in for the same reason,
seeking her, for Suschen is to be his bride. Gustav, (the prisoner)
hearing footsteps, blows out the candle, in order to save Caroline from
being recognized and so they all run about in the dark, playing
hide and seek in an infinitely droll manner. At last the bailiff,
having heard that his son has been found, comes up with the
inn-keeper.--The whole mystery is cleared up, and both sons embrace
their respective fathers and their brides.
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