The Maidens Of Schilda

In three acts by ALBAN FORSTER.


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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