The singer (Hauff)

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The singer is a crime novella by Wilhelm Hauff that appeared in 1826. She deals with the investigation of an attempted murder on a young singer by the doctor treating her.


1st chapter

Commerzienrat Bolnau meets an acquaintance on his daily walk in the city of B ... and tells him that the eighteen-year-old singer Giuseppa Bianetti, who is very well known in the city, was murdered the night before. The evening before, she is said to have talked to a masked gentleman on a redoubt , with whom she then left the ball. There are ugly rumors in town about the lady's past and lifestyle.

2nd chapter

Bolnau meets the Medical Councilor Lange, who gives him details about the incident:

Giuseppa is only injured and out of danger. Lange was called by Giuseppa's servant the night before and found Giuseppa with a stab wound near the heart. The servant reports that Giuseppa came home with a masked gentleman, that there was an argument and that the gentleman stabbed and fled, falling down the stairs and injuring himself. The next morning Lange notifies the police director. But the servant does not want to tell him about the master’s nightly visit, so as not to compromise her mistress. The last word the Giuseppa had before she passed out after the attack was the name Bolnau .

3rd chapter

Kommerzienrat Bolnau cannot explain this as he is the only one with this name in the city. His son Karl Bolnau left the city a long time ago, went to England as a musician and announced that he would emigrate to America. Since the Kommerzienrat now fears that it will be brought into connection with the case, the otherwise cheerful and talkative gentleman is now suspicious and nervous.

4th chapter

Lange goes to Giuseppa again in the evening and tells her about the rumors that are circulating about her: She is said to have been seen in Paros in a "bad house"; the assassin is a former lover. Giuseppa is dismayed by this attack on her honor. Shortly afterwards, the conductor Carlo Boloni rushed into the room, who had also heard the rumors, and was beside himself with jealousy, so that Lange had to expel him from the room in order to spare the patient.

Giuseppe asks Lange to come back the next day so that she can tell him the truth about her past. He should then go to Boloni and tell him everything to calm him down. Lange also takes a silk handkerchief with a signature that the assassin apparently lost the night before.

5th chapter

The next morning, when he visits the sick, Lange learns more about Boloni and the bad opinion people have about the singer in town. Kommerzienrat Bolnau is still afraid that he will be suspected and that he will be punished innocently. Giuseppa takes trust in Lange and tells him:

6th chapter

Giuseppa's parents were both musicians, the father a violinist and the mother a singer. The father died when Giuseppa was four years old and the mother married a music director. She had three more children and her voice gradually got worse. Giuseppa's stepfather, who had only married the mother to take advantage of her voice, now wants to use brutal methods to teach Giuseppa particularly difficult singing parts in order to earn money with her as a "child prodigy". The mother died when Giuseppa was eleven years old, and the stepfather is often visited by a man with "flashing gray eyes" who makes Giuseppa dread. When she turns 15, her stepfather sends her away to an "uncle in Paris". At first she is happy, but it turns out that it is the man with the gray eyes she was sold to. Its parlor in Paris, in which more young girls live, turns out to be a brothel. After Giuseppa realizes this, she flees to a lady who lives in the house across the street and whom Giuseppa trusts because she is also Italian. This lady, Seraphina, is the niece of an envoy from a German court. When she returned to Italy, she took Giuseppa to Piacenza , where she met the Kapellmeister Boloni. Later she took on a job as a singer at the theater in B ..., where Boloni followed her.

Meanwhile, in the brothel in Paris, it is believed that Giuseppa threw herself to her death because before she escaped, she left the window open, under which a canal flows.

7th chapter

Lange promises to report all of this (see Chapter 6) to Boloni in order to reconcile him. Giuseppa then continues: In Piacenza she learned of the death of the Chevalier de Planto - the man to whom she was sold. Then she dares to appear in public again.

The Chevalier suddenly appears on the redoubt (see Chapter 1) - apparently his death was only faked. He threatens Giuseppa to tell everyone "in which society" she used to live. He follows her home and demands either 10,000 francs or her return to his "house of joy". She defends herself and is stabbed.

Lange, who has listened to this story, now promises to help Giuseppa to get her right.

8th chapter

The ambassador of a German court, whose niece Giuseppa had taken in Paris, happens to be in B ... and lives in the same hotel as Boloni. Lange visits the envoy and has him confirm Giuseppa's story. The envoy uses his influence in the city to restore Giuseppa's reputation.

Lange then visits Boloni and urges him to listen to Giuseppa's story. Boloni doubts its veracity until the envoy confirms it. The conversation between Boloni and Lange is interrupted by the cursing and moaning of an apparently seriously suffering guest in the next room.

9th chapter

Giuseppa's health improves after she has made up with Boloni. Lange, the police director and Giuseppa are now planning to set a trap for the murderer: They want to spread the news that Giuseppa will go to the last redoubt of the carnival so that he will also appear there. Giuseppa's servant now confesses to the police director that Giuseppa's last word before she passed out was "Bolnau". The police director now stops the Kommerzienrat Bolnau on the street to “check him out”.

10th chapter

Bolnau practices in front of the mirror how he wants to face Giuseppa behind a mask on the redoubt as unsuspiciously as possible. However, he behaves so suspiciously that Giuseppa takes him for the Chevalier de Planto. He is arrested by Giuseppa's guards, while Lange is called to the hotel about a medical emergency - they are Boloni's roommates.

11th chapter

Lange comes into the patient's room, which fits Giuseppa's description of the Chevalier de Planto. Lange is confused because he believes the Chevalier had just been arrested on the Redoute (in truth it was the Bolnau Commerzienrat, see Chapter 10). The patient shows him a stab wound in the chest: he fell down a flight of stairs and accidentally injured himself with a dagger. When he then wipes his mouth with a handkerchief similar to the one found in Giuseppa Zimmer, Lange is sure that he has the Chevalier in front of him.

12th chapter

The next morning Lange and the director go to the hotel to interrogate the terminally ill Chevalier. He gives a false name, whereupon Giuseppa and the envoy are brought in as witnesses who identify him as the Chevalier de Planto.

Now the bailiffs bring in the Bolnau Commerce Councilor, whom the police director still considers an accomplice. The latter complains to Giuseppa that she has tarnished his honest name by calling him out before she passed out. She clears up the misunderstanding: Not the Kommerzienrat was meant, but her lover, the Kapellmeister Carlo Boloni, who is in truth Karl Bolnau, the long missing son of the Kommerzienrat (see 3rd chapter). The chevalier dies while next door, in the conductor's room, the councilor agrees to his son's marriage to Giuseppa.


The plot combines a love story with a crime story. The tension is directed first at the identity of the perpetrator and then, after this has been clarified, at the risk of another attack, then at the reconciliation of the lovers. Some people, especially father and son Bolnau, are ironically ironic by the narrator: The exaggerated pathetic demeanor of the conductor and the hysteria of the Kommerzienrat are exposed. The social life in the German provincial city, which is characterized by gossip, is also a goal of satirical representation.


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