Im Weiss'n Rössl


Im Weiss'n Rössl
(The White Horse Inn) by Oskar Blumenthal and Gustav Kadelburg.
   Premiered 1898. Berlin manufacturer Wilhelm Giesecke, the personification of a Wilhelmine parvenu, travels south to the Salzkammergut region in Austria with his sister Charlotte and his daughter Ottilie. He hopes for a respite from the rigors of making money in Berlin, but in the process he encounters difficulties with baggage handlers, coachmen, and hotel porters. Ultimately the family settles in at the modest and unprepossessing hotel Im weiss'n Rössl on the shores of Lake Wolfgang. The White Horse Inn is the charge of a formidable but young and attractive widow, Josepha Vogelhuber. Giesecke's real conflicts begin upon the arrival of Dr. Siedler, who is suing Giesecke in Berlin for unlawful business practice. Giesecke makes immediate plans to depart, but discovers that every other hotel in the area is booked—and anyway, his sister and daughter like the White Horse Inn. A teacher named Heinzelmann appears, and he is the mild-mannered, easygoing opposite of Giesecke; he comes to the hotel every other summer (when he can afford it) simply to enjoy himself. His daughter Klärchen is as lovable as he is, though her speech impediment causes her embarrassment. On their journey, they have met a young man named Sülzheimer, whose father is also a rich manufacturer. Giesecke determines that his daughter Ottilie will marry Sülzheimer, but the young Sülzheimer has fallen in love with Klärchen, despite or perhaps because of her speech impediment—and to Giesecke's profound consternation, Ottilie has fallen in love with Dr. Siedler. Hotel owner Josepha had her sights set on Dr. Siedler as well, but ultimately acquiesces to the courtship of her headwaiter and agrees to marry him.
   Several humorous types troupe through the play, including local villagers, letter carriers, forest rangers, yodelers, and hotel staff members. Giesecke's utterance, "Das Geschäft ist richtig" (It's a good business), became a popular phrase in Berlin during the 1900s. The play is a spoof on Austrians and on the simple, honest folk who ran vacation businesses in Austria, but Blumenthal and Kadelburg were also parodying the Berlin nouveau riche and their legal concerns. What made this play so popular is the agreeable superficiality of the characters. Leopold, the headwaiter, is a masterpiece of the frustrated male ego, while the object of his affections, Josepha, is his foil. Giesecke and Siedler are likewise antagonists, though their conflict in Berlin—the basis of their motivations, after all—is never clarified. Audiences recognized everybody in this play as a type, and as such they behaved according to expectations.
   The White Horse Inn became a musical in 1930, when Ralph Be-natsky (Rudolph Josef Frantisek, 1884-1957) used the script as the libretto. It has remained popular since then, performed thousands of times in German-language theaters around the world.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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