The Poacher



Text after a comedy by KOTZEBUE.

The music of this opera is so fresh, so full of gaiety and of charming

melodies, that it might be compared with Lortzing's "Czar and

Zimmermann", if only the text were as well done. Unhappily it lacks

all the advantages which characterize the opera just named, as it is

frivolous, without possessing the grace and "esprit", which distinguish

French composition of a similar kind.

Nevertheless the good music prevails over the bad text, and the opera

holds its own with success in every German theatre.

The contents of the libretto are the following:

A schoolmaster, Baculus by name, has had the misfortune unintentionally

to shoot a roe-buck, belonging to the forest of his master, Count of

Eberbach. Baculus, who is on the eve of his wedding with a young girl,

named Gretchen, is much afraid, when the consequences of his unlucky

shot show themselves in the shape of a summons to the castle, where he

is looked on as a poacher, and is in danger of losing his position.

His bride offers to entreat the Count to pardon him, but the jealous

old schoolmaster will not allow it. In this embarrassing

position the Baroness Freimann, a young widow appears, disguised in the

suit of a student, and accompanied by her chambermaid Nanette, who is

dressed as her famulus or valet. Hearing of the schoolmaster's

misfortune, she proposes to put on Gretchen's clothes and to crave the

Count's pardon under the bride's name. Baculus gladly accepts the

student's proposal and accompanies him to the castle. Everybody is

charmed by the graces and naivete of the country-girl. The Count tries

to make love to her, while Baron Kronthal, who is present, is so much

enamoured, that he thinks of marrying her despite her low birth.

Kronthal is the Countess of Eberbach's brother, but she does not know

him as such, though she feels herself greatly attracted by him. In

order to save the girl from persecution, the Countess takes her with

her into her room. Meanwhile the Count offers the sum of 5000 thalers

to Baculus for the renunciation of his bride. The silly schoolmaster

accepts the offer, thinking that the Count wishes to win the real

Gretchen. By waking the latter's vanity, he succeeds in turning her

affection to the Count, but great is his perplexity, when the Count

rejects his bride and scornfully asks for the other Gretchen. Baculus

avows at last, that the latter is a disguised student. Baron Kronthal,

full of wrath, asks for satisfaction, the student having passed the

night in his sister's room. On this occasion the others for the first

time hear that the Countess is the Baron's sister. He demands an

explanation and then it is discovered that the student is the Baroness

Freimann, sister of the Count of Eberbach. Everybody is content, for

the Count, who was detected in the act of kissing the country-girl,

declares, that with him it was the voice of nature that spoke, and the

Countess, to whom he now presents Kronthal as her brother, makes a like

statement. The unhappy Baculus receives full pardon from the Count, on

condition that he will, henceforth teach the children of the village,

instead of shooting game.

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