In one act by RICHARD BATKA and PORDES-MILO, adapted from
Rauppach's "Der versiegelte Buergermeister".
Music by LEO BLECH.
The popularity of this work, the composer's first real success, is due
not only to the sparkling and easy flow of melody, but also in large
measure to the skill with which the librettists have adapted Rauppach's
We are transported to the age of chokers and kneebreeches, and the
easy-going and good-humoured spirit of the times is well caught, and
combined with the more delicate touches of feeling.
Blech is no mere imitator, but has a distinct individuality.
The chorus of the "Schuetzen", the dainty and touching little song of
the widow Gertrude, and the first love duet are effective and
characteristic, while the garrulous Lampe's songs are full of merriment.
The scene is laid in a small provincial town in the year 1830. Frau
Willmers, a worthy matron, asks permission of her neighbour, a
sprightly young widow, to deposit in her house an heirloom, in the
shape of a handsome old cupboard, her reason being that the Burgomaster
who bears her a grudge owing to an ancient dispute with her husband,
threatens her with distraint for non-payment of taxes. Gertrude
readily consents to have the cupboard placed in her room. Meanwhile
Frau Willmers' son, Bertel, the Recorder, appears with Elsa, the
daughter of the Burgomaster. Bertel has asked the Burgomaster for
Elsa's hand, and been refused. Elsa declares that she will marry
Bertel and no one but Bertel. The latter begs Gertrude, who has long
possessed the Burgomaster's affections, to soften the father's heart.
Gertrude promises to do her best, with which consolation the couple
together with Frau Willmers take their departure. In a humorous
monologue Gertrude decides to accept the Burgomaster. She is
interrupted in her soliloquy by Lampe, the Beadle, who is a regular old
Paul Pry, and boasts to the widow of his smartness and sagacity.
According to himself he can ferret out anything, or any one, from a
defrauder of the revenue to a thief, an anarchist or a murderer. Then
he goes on to say that he intended to serve notice of distraint on Frau
Willmers, but had found her door locked. Suddenly he catches sight of
the cupboard which seems familiar to him, whereupon he hurriedly leaves
to convince himself that the valuable piece of furniture has been
removed from Frau Willmers'. Meanwhile the Burgomaster arrives to ask
for Gertrude's hand. He first tells her of Bertel's suit, and is
rather taken aback upon the widow advising him to accept Bertel as a
son-in-law. Gertrude listens somewhat impatiently to his proposal, and
just as he is about to kiss her, Lampe appears at the door with Frau
Willmers. Gertrude hastily conceals the Burgomaster in the cupboard.
Lampe having compelled the unfortunate Frau Willmers to admit the
ownership of the cupboard, promptly affixes the official seal,
thus unconsciously seizing the Burgomaster as well as the cupboard.
The key is not to be found, and Lampe looking through a hole sees
something moving. He suspects a gallant to be inside and leaves the
house to fetch the Burgomaster. No sooner has he left than Bertel and
Elsa reappear, and are told by Gertrude of what has happened. They
resolve to turn the Burgomaster's involuntary imprisonment to their
advantage. While Gertrude and Frau Willmers go in search of witnesses,
the pair of lovers enact a regular comedy in front of the cupboard.
Bertel protests to his sweetheart that his loyalty to, and regard for,
her father prevent him from being a party to any deception. He
declares that he will rather die than marry the daughter against her
father's wishes, whereupon Elsa takes tragic leave of her lover. The
Burgomaster, deeply affected, reveals his presence and promises
everything if Bertel will only release him. Bertel demands Elsa's hand
in return, and the latter hastily draws up a marriage contract in
virtue of which she is to be allowed to marry in a fortnight, and is to
receive into the bargain from her father 500 dollars in gold, a house
and garden, with the customary livestock, to wit, cows, goats, ducks,
hens, etc. The document is passed into the cupboard by Bertel and
signed by the prisoner. He is then set at liberty, and gives the
couple his blessing. But to punish them for their sins, the
Burgomaster now locks them up in the cupboard, seals it lightly
[Transcriber's note: tightly?], and hides himself in the alcove.
Hereupon Gertrude appears, accompanied by a merry throng, whom she has
brought from the fair to witness the release of her lover. An
inspiriting chorus is sung, the door of the cupboard flies open, but
instead of the Burgomaster, out steps the betrothed couple. At the
same moment the Burgomaster appears with stern mien. In reply to his
question as to how the couple had got into the cupboard, Gertrude
artfully declares that she had shut them up in order to unite them in
spite of the father's harshness. For a moment all are disappointed at
the unexpected turn things are taking. But good humour gains the upper
hand, and then increases on the appearance of Lampe who is slightly
intoxicated and imagines that Bertel has killed his master, as he has
been unable to find him. He wants to lock Gertrude up in the cupboard
for having broken the official seal, but eventually is forced into the
cupboard himself, and carried off amidst the shouts and jeers of all
present. While Bertel and Elsa disappear into the alcove, the
Burgomaster makes for Gertrude and as a punishment for the trick she
has played him, makes her his wife and seals the compact in the usual