Little Bare Foot
in two Pictures with a Prelude by RICHARD HEUBERGER.
Words by VICTOR LEON from AUERBACH'S Story.
The young composer's opera is a musical village-story, simple and well
adapted to the pretty subject.
Heuberger's talent is of the graceful style; he is not very original
but his waltzes and "Laendlers" have the true Viennese ring, and the
kirmess in the first act is very characteristic; it is melodious and
full of healthy humour. The airs often recall popular songs.
The story is simple. Its scene is laid in Haldenbrunn, a village in
the Black Forest.
Amrei and Dami, sister and brother, coming home from their distant
school find the door of their father's cottage locked. Accustomed to
the frequent absence of their parents they sit down under the
mountain-ash to wait for their return. A crowd of school-children
following them provoke Amrei by calling her "Barfuessele", because she
never wears shoes; her little brother tries to defend his sister, but
in vain. At last the "Landfriedbaeurin", a rich farmer's wife comes to
his help and drives the tormenting brats away.
She has come to attend the funeral of the two children's parents, who
both died on the same day, and seeing that the orphans do not yet know
of their bereavement she is at a loss, how to make them understand.--At
last she takes off her garnet-necklace, and hangs it round Amrei's
neck, promising Dami a pair of good leather breeches.
When she sees Marann and Mr. Krappenzacher approaching, she upbraids
them for having left the poor children in ignorance of their sad loss,
on which old Marann, taking the orphans in her arms, explains to them,
that they will never see their parents again on earth. The poor
children cry bitterly and bid a heartrending farewell to their little
home. Thus ends the Prelude.
The first act takes place twelve years later.
Amrei has entered the service of the rich Rodelbauer. She still goes
bare-footed, but she is the life of the inn, and everybody requires her
services.--It is St. Paul's day and the farmer's wife promises Amrei
that she may join in the dancing like the other girls. While Amrei
goes into the house to adorn herself for the festival, Dami comes to
take leave of his sister. Dami is in love with the Rodelbauer's
handsome sister Rosel, and having no hopes of winning her, he is about
to enter the military service.--Amrei, who has returned, is much
grieved at his resolution and leaves him to fetch his bundle of
clothes.--Rosel now enters in her best attire. She loves Dami, and
though she never means to marry the poor servant lad, she allows him to
kiss and embrace her. Amrei coming back and seeing this is very much
shocked and now urges him herself to leave the village at once.
In the next scene the Landfriedbaeurin arrives from the Allgaeu with her
son Johannes.--Amrei recognizes the good woman who gave her the
garnet-necklace twelve years ago and both are very much pleased to see
each other again. The rich peasant has come to consult Krappenzacher,
known as the best matchmaker in the country, and she promises him a
large fee, if he succeeds in finding a suitable bride for Johannes.
The latter is quite willing to marry, provided he finds a girl that
pleases him and his mother gives him sound advice about the qualities
that should be found in a good wife. First she must never cut a
knot but untie it, she must be content to take the second part in a
duet and so on.
In the next scene the Rodelbaeurin and Rosel come out ready for church.
Amrei has to keep house, but she is perfectly happy in the prospect of
Meanwhile Krappenzacher tells the Rodelbauer that he has found a
splendid suitor for his sister Rosel, and the rich peasant promises him
a hundred crowns, if the match comes off.--They then stroll towards the
church and Amrei appears in her national Sunday costume and with new
shoes. She sits down on the bench, meditating sadly about the poor
chance she will have of a partner and hardly noticing Johannes who
rides by and accosts her.
A few minutes later the villagers come in a procession from church
headed by the band and the dancing begins.
Amrei sits alone neglected; nobody comes to dance with her; the
peasants threw all their wraps, kerchiefs etc. to the poor girl, who
soon looks like a clothes-stand.
Suddenly Johannes comes up. Perceiving the lonely maiden, he carries
her off to dance with him.
When the village bells ring for Vespers the dancing stops, and
Johannes, sitting down at a table treats his partner to a glass of
wine. He is greatly pleased with her, but when she tells him, that she
is only a servant he becomes thoughtful. At last he bids her
farewell with a kiss and departs without having looked at any of the
The second act takes place a year later. The scene is laid in the
Rodelbauer's court-yard. Johannes has come once more to the village
with his parents, who press him to make up his mind and to choose a
wife at last. Krappenzacher, in whose house they live promises to let
him see the right bride, and goes to prepare Rosel for the coming of
the rich suitor. He advises her to take off her finery and to appear
as a practical and capable peasant girl, and Rosel promises to comply
with his wishes.
A little later Amrei arrives with her brother Dami. He is decorated
with the iron cross, but he wears his arm in a sling. His sister has
brought him home from the battle field in order to nurse him; she has
caught cold herself, so that her whole face is bound up in a woolen
shawl. Rosel, reappearing in a simple working-dress greets her old
lover, but Dami speaks very bitterly, when he hears that she is to
marry a rich peasant, and he leaves her in scorn and wrath, while Rosel
goes to the stable to milk the cows.
Johannes, coming into the court-yard finds only Amrei, who is sweetly
singing the second part to Rosel's song, heard from the stable. Amrei
recognizes him at once, but he does not recognize his fair partner in
the simple servant, whose face is disfigured by the bandage. Desirous
to know something about the girl he is to wed, he asks Amrei, if
she leads a hard life in the house and if Rosel is good to her. She
answers in the affirmative, and so he lets himself be led to the stable
by the old Rodelbauer under the pretext of inspecting a white horse,
but in reality to look at the girl. Meanwhile Rosel comes out tired of
her unaccustomed work.
She wavers between her desire to get a rich husband and her love for
Dami. The appearance of Amrei, who comes out of the house in her
Sunday dress excites her wrath. Notwithstanding Amrei's resistance she
wrenches the garnet-necklace from her throat and beats her. The girl's
screams bring out all the neighbours including Johannes, who, pulling
Rosel back from the weeping girl, recognizes his partner of the year
Forgetting everything but his love, which has only grown deeper in the
interval, he strains her to his heart.
The Rodelbauer turning to his sister is about to beat her, but Dami
intervenes and Rosel, quite ashamed of herself turns to her true lover
and begs his pardon.
Johannes leads his sweet-heart into the adjoining garden, where they
wait for the arrival of the parents.
Amrei has a difficult task in winning Johannes' father, whose pride
will not permit him to welcome a daughter in law without a dower, but
the mother, who was always fond of the daughter of her old friend,
secretly offers her a sum of money she has saved for herself; Johannes
does the same. At last her perfect goodness and sweetness soften the
old peasant's heart and all ends in peace and happiness.