Moser, Gustavvon


Moser, Gustavvon
(1825-1903)
   Playwright. Moser was the author or coauthor of many successful "military comedies" in the Wilhelmine period, largely because Moser was himself a former army officer. His prodigious output of such fare earned him the unofficial rank of "five-star general of comedy." Moser was most accomplished when writing with fellow former officers, notably Franz von Schön-than and Wilhelm von Trotha. Moser lived in an area called Lauban, which was served by theaters in Görlitz, Posen, Zittau, and Bad Warmbrunn. These four theaters became his workshops to try out new plays, rewrite them based on audience response, and then grant them a Berlin premiere—usually at the Wallner Theater. If they were successful there, they made their way through scores of German provincial theaters. Most provincial houses did at least one Moser play every year, and many did three or four a year. Otto Brahm claimed that both German playwrights and German actors were "ruined" in the process, calling the plays "Moserades" (Otto Brahm, "Moser," Die Nation 6 [1888-1889]: 89). Female audience members in particular were drawn to Moser's comedies depicting young lieutenants in love with local girls. The German theater did little otherwise to attract young female audience members, but Moser's plays set a precedent for later hits employing similar motifs. Moser's Der Veilchenfresser (The Violet Eater) is like many a Moser comedy, portraying an excessively gallant Hussar lieutenant who sends bouquets of violets to his female acquaintances.
   His collaboration with Schönthan titled Krieg im Frieden (War in Peace, 1880) features a middle-class home as its battlefield, with the major combatants being a mother and daughter competing for the attentions of a young lieutenant. It had predictable features of the genre, including unswerving deference to senior officers, military trumpet fanfares interrupting courtship antics, colorful costumes, and a military-style of speech among the soldiers that curiously omitted the definite article—but it differed from most in that women conspire to win the lieutenant. In the funny opening sequence of The Violet Eater, the young lieutenant comes downstairs for breakfast, attaching his monocle. He looks at mother and daughter and says, "By Jove, a beautiful young girl. In fact, two of them." He is a caricature, as he is in most such comedies, putting on airs and too much after-shave lotion.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.


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