Johann Nestroy

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Johann Nepomuk Nestroy

Johann Nepomuk Eduard Ambrosius Nestroy (born December 7, 1801 in Vienna , † May 25, 1862 in Graz ) was an Austrian playwright , actor and opera singer ( bass ). His work is the literary highlight of the old Viennese folk theater .


Johann Nestroy, lithograph by Josef Kriehuber , 1839

Johann Nepomuk Nestroy was born the second of eight children to a respected Viennese bourgeois family. He was supposed to become a lawyer - like his father, the “court and court advocate” Johann Nestroy - but was more interested in the theater. Nestroy attended the Academic Gymnasium from 1811 to 1813, then from 1814 the Schottengymnasium , in the same year his mother Magdalena died on April 15th. That year he made his first public appearance as a pianoforte player in a concert. Nestroy began in 1819, a philosophy -, from 1820 Jus -Studies at the University of Vienna , but sang at that time already once in the Redoute Hall of the Hofburg a bass -Solopartie of George Frideric Handel . He finished his studies in 1822 and began his career as a bassist at the Kärntnertortheater and at the Vienna Court Opera as Sarastro in Mozart's Magic Flute .

In 1823 he went to the Hoogduitse Schouwburg Amsterdam (Deutsche Theater) in Amsterdam as a singer, where he made his debut on October 18 as Kaspar in Weber's Der Freischütz and stayed for three years. He later became an actor at the theaters in Brno (1826), where the police banned him from the stage because of extemporating , in Graz (1826) with director Johann August Stöger , where he wrote and played his first farce himself in 1827, alternately also on the stage of Pressburg . He switched from the opera to the theater stage, because his role in Twelve Girls in Uniform (he played the Sansquartier) convinced him of his comic talent. In 1829 he had a guest role in the Josefstädter Theater in Vienna, then in 1831 he got an engagement to Lemberg and made his debut there as Rappelkopf in Raimund's Der Alpenkönig und der Menschenfeind .

Fled from Lviv due to a cholera epidemic, he got his first engagement in 1831 from director Carl Carl at the Theater an der Wien as a playwright and comedian, where his career as an avid theater writer began. His father died in 1834, and in the same year he turned from the magic pieces of his early days as a writer to the local farce, parody and popular satire.

In 1836 he received a prison sentence for extemporating, which he served from January 16 to 21; in September of that year he was engaged as a guest in Graz for the first time. In this and the following years he completed major summer tours abroad every year, which took him to Hamburg (1841) and Berlin (1844). In 1838, director Carl also took over the Leopoldstadt Theater , so that from 1839 Nestroy had to write and act for two stages.

During the revolution of 1848 Nestroy took advantage of the abolition of censorship as an author, a situation that did not last long. Some of his pieces in the period after that were therefore not released for performance by him and only became known to us from his estate.

Memorial plaque for Johann Nestroy in Elisabethstrasse 14 in Graz

From November 1854 to November 1860 Nestroy was director of the Carltheater in Leopoldstadt after Carl's death . In 1857 his favorite stage colleague Wenzel Scholz died . He spent the last years of his life in Graz , where he bought a house in May 1859 and a villa in Bad Ischl in August . Nestroy's last role in Vienna was Knieriem in Der böse Geist Lumpazivagabundus in the Theater am Franz-Josefs-Kai by his colleague Karl Treumann in March 1862, and for the last time ever he was on stage in Graz on April 29 of this year. Along with Raimund, he was probably the most popular Viennese folk play author of the Vormärz and a predecessor of Ludwig Anzengruber .

Marriage to Wilhelmine Nespiesni

Maria Wilhelmine Philippine (von) Nespiesni (* 1804 in Vienna ; † 1870 ibid) was the illegitimate daughter of Franz de Paula Emmerich Karl Josef Count Zichy de Zich et Vasonkeö and Katharina, née. von Nespiesni, wife of the notary secretary Franz Wilhelm Zwettlinger. Wilhelmine's mother Katharina was married to the committee member Franz Zacher Edler von Sonnenstein for 13 months from 1800, after which she became the lover of Count Zichy, with whom she had five children, the second of whom was Wilhelmine. In 1813 she married Franz Zwettlinger, who lovingly took care of the illegitimate children.

The young Johann Nestroy

In 1822 Wilhelmine Nespiesni met Johann Nestroy at private theater performances in her stepfather's house. The future mother-in-law, Katharina Zwettlinger, got him the mentioned engagement at the Viennese court opera through her relations with court conductor Joseph Weigl .

On September 7, 1823, the then 22-year-old married 19-year-old Wilhelmine in the Augustinian Church and traveled with her for his first foreign engagement in Amsterdam, where he made his debut at the Hoogduitse Schouwburg Amsterdam. This offer, which he received on August 29, 1823, had given him the financial means to marry; his salary was 1,600  Dutch guilders . The son Gustav was born in Amsterdam on April 22, 1824. On May 24, 1824, Wilhelmine and Gustav had to leave Amsterdam rashly because of a fever caused by contaminated drinking water. Nestroy fell ill, but was soon able to recover. Wilhelmine returned on July 30th, but the family only stayed until August 13th and then traveled leisurely for seven weeks through Holland and Germany to Brno.

After Nestroy had to leave Brno in 1826 on the orders of the local police department, the family moved to Graz, where he found a new job. Wilhelmine, who was bored in the province, began a love affair with a Count Adalbert Batthyány and left her husband in 1827. The three-year-old son Gustav stayed with his father.

In 1841 Wilhelmine was abandoned by all of her lovers - after Count Batthyány, she had left a few - and financially exhausted. She asked her husband for support and Nestroy negotiated a tough contract with her through his lawyer. Wilhelmine Nespiesni had to sign that she was solely to blame for the breakdown of the marriage, that Nestroy would pay off her debts of 160 guilders, but that she could deduct this sum in installments from the alimentation agreed at the same time. Also, from now on she has no more claims and in future no more debts will be assumed from her husband.

Due to the Austrian marriage law at the time - marriages were carried out according to the Catholic rite, divorce was therefore not possible - Nestroy was only able to divorce Wilhelmine under civil law on February 15, 1845 after a lengthy and unsightly annulment process . However, a new marriage was forever ruled out. Nestroy's long-time partner Marie Weiler stayed out of all the disputes over Wilhelmine.

According to a police report of October 21, 1854, Wilhelmine Nespiesni was likely to have led a rather questionable way of life in the following period, because she was described as follows:

"Nestroy has been judicially divorced from his morally sunk wife for 29 years [...]"

This police report - which was very positive for him personally - had become necessary because Nestroy had successfully applied for the management of the Carltheater on behalf of the community of heirs after director Carl Carl's death.

Life partnership with Marie Weiler

Although he loved his partner, the singer Marie Weiler , whom he always referred to as “the woman” in his letters, he always cheated on her. They had three children together, Carl, Marie and Adolf, and she was a great support to him in financial and administrative matters until the end of his life. Nestroy emphasizes in his will that he only owes his fortune to her. In addition to legacies for his children and siblings, he made them a universal heiress.

Affair with Karoline Köfer

On March 12, 1855, Johann Nestroy wrote a long letter to the young provincial actress Karoline Köfer. He had found out from an investigator on his behalf that she lived in the inner city , 402 shoulder street on the third floor. Experienced in initiating relationships, he formulated:

"My girl! Not only the letter in and of itself, but even more the daring length of this letter, possibly with its possibly complete unsuccessfulness, is what will astonish you. […] Since I never spend an evening without going to the theater, it happened that I saw her, that I saw her repeatedly in city and suburban theaters ... "

- Johann Nestroy : Letter to Karoline Köfer

On two pages he asked for a rendezvous, and Karoline, flattered by the attention of the famous Nestroy, was happy to hear that he wanted to be her “discreet friend” . Nestroy bought her clothes, jewelry and other gifts and even furnished her with a stately apartment on Laurenzerberg . Since he was spending more and more time there, the young lady soon raised hopes of being able to oust Marie Weiler. She, otherwise patient with Nestroy’s many affairs, had enough this time because of the generous lover’s high spending. She moved out of the shared apartment and insisted on the separation of property. Nestroy fled from the problems to Helgoland , from where he asked mutual friends to stand up for him with the angry girl. Anonymous letters from Karoline Köfer, diatribes on Marie Weiler, angered Nestroy so much against her hitherto lover that he decided to get rid of her with a financial settlement of 500 guilders. As a "gift of reconciliation", he left the administration of the Carltheater in sole responsibility to his partner Marie.

Nestroy's handling of language

The claim that Nestroy was a “Viennese dialect poet” is an oversimplification of his use of the language. Karl Kraus always emphasized this in his rediscovery of Nestroy's work and in his readings. In fact, the original theater plays - hardly noticeable in later versions because of the "messiness" - of a mixture of high-level language, colloquial language and dialect, with the neologisms , the rhetorical figures and the speaking names being typical creations of the poet.

The following examples are only an excerpt, further stylistic devices can be found in the individual theater pieces:

  • Neologisms:
  • rhetorical figures ( metaphor ):
  • rhetorical figures ( homonyms ):
    • She has gone to the bottom, now she rests in the deep ground, her death is the cause of my misfortune, a misfortune was the cause of her death, the ship of my joys has drilled into the ground, is that not reason enough, the name reason from reason from being an enemy? (The death on the wedding day 1829)
    • Now the glue is running out of glue, nothing more glues for me. ( The evil spirit Lumpacivagabundus 1833)
    • Of course, what is a marriage promise? A promise that Madl doesn't expect much from anyway. ( Tangled story! 1850)
    • Disguises will not protect the Lord from my Lord, my Lord will show the Lord a 'Lord, for that I know my Lord. ( The dyer and his twin brother 1840); show the Lord = threaten someone
  • speaking Names:
    • Master Butcher Hackauf (The Evil Spirit Lumpacivagabundus 1833)
    • Master baker Kipfl ( railway marriages 1844)
    • Brewmaster Malzer (Kampl 1852)
    • Kaffeesieder Gschloder ( Free ! 1857) Gschloder = Viennese for bad, weak coffee
    • Koch Ho-gu ( Chief Evening Wind 1862) from the French haut goût = (game) taste

Controversy about his works

As an actor, Nestroy was an original, humorous character drawer; as a playwright, he turned against the tragic and sentimentality of romanticism with crude realism . His pieces are characterized by a seemingly superficial plot that is repeatedly interrupted by vocal pieces, so-called couplets . These songs, with a catchy melody and simple lyrics, were usually only connected to the plot by a few transitional words. Only two or three stanzas of the couplet were written down, the singer improvised every performance for all other stanzas. With his successful improvisations , Nestroy often offended the censorship spies who were always present - as a result, he had to break off his first engagement in Brno and leave the city on police orders.

In the role of Johann ( on the ground floor and first floor ) Nestroy was once arrested for five days because he was extemporating because he alluded to his enemy, the critic Franz Wiest, during the performance and deviated from the textbook submitted:

" Whist is played on the table - it's strange that the most ingenious game invented in England has the same name as the stupidest person in Vienna."

The audience reacted partly with frenetic applause, partly with signs of disapproval. Even the foreign press, such as the Dresdner Abend-Zeitung of October 20, 1835, reported on it and took a stand on behalf of the offended journalist.

At the premiere of An Apartment for rent on 17 January 1837 in the Theater an der Wien , there was a complete scandal , as Nestroy in the bourgeois satire all walks of bourgeois-saturated middle class to the präpotenten Hausbesorgern held up a mirror and the resulting wounded - so the majority of his regular audience in the suburban theaters - upset. Nestroy's biting criticism of philistine bourgeoisie and hypocrisy was described as a "pointless and meaningless work" and only played three times.

In the years before the 1848 revolution , the artist entered the stage with bread rolls instead of shirt buttons. At the time, the bakers had fallen into disrepute, as the rolls weighed only half as much as they had twenty years earlier, but cost the same. He had to spend one night in arrest for mocking a profession and apologizing publicly the next day. At the apology ordered for the next performance, he thanked the prison guards for sticking bread rolls through the keyhole of the cell. This event is called the semmelanecdote.

The first performance of Die Anverwandten on May 25, 1848 in the Carltheater, a political comedy that dealt with the bourgeois revolution after the play Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens , caused a scandal because of the verses alluding to the Frankfurt National Assembly :

"Quite a few people have voted for Frankfurt
who don't know anything except Frankfurt sausages ."

In choruses, the audience asked Nestroy to publicly make apologies for the missed piece. Nestroy gave in and sent a colleague to the ramp who had to apologize to the indignant crowd.

Scholz and Nestroy as members of the National Guard

When director Carl Carl formed a “theater company” out of his actors in 1848, which he sent out with great pomp and music - they were armed with sabers and other objects from the theater stock - Scholz and Nestroy were also armed for martial purposes at the Ferdinand Bridge over the Danube Canal wake up. In fact, this had been planned by Carl as a gigantic advertising spectacle for his theater and was also very popular. A contemporary account reported:

“On April 20th, a dense knot of people was seen rolling over the Ferdinand Bridge and down the Jägerzeile ; it was the thousands of Vienna who wanted to see their darlings Scholz and Nestroy wearing their arms. There stood the two, Nestroy, the slender warrior, girded with the sword of Caspar the Thorringer, Scholz on his left, planted on his short thick legs, the face of the martial expression of the tyrant Sacribandos. "

In 1850, Twelve Girls in Uniform at the New Year's performance led to a tangible scandal that continued to echo in the newspapers throughout January. As a result, the journalist and main opponent of Nestroy, Moritz Gottlieb Saphir , even sought police protection against Nestroy’s attacks, because he turned to the audience during the performance in which there was hissing and extemporated: "Sure, Mr. Saphir is there!"

Nestroy's scent for everything contradicting and ambiguous in human nature, his gift of depicting the broken figures, made him the heir to Laurence Stern and placed his stage psychology next to that of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw . Karl Kraus was a great admirer of Nestroy, recited many of his pieces, especially the lesser known ones, in readings and dedicated the essay Nestroy and Posterity to him on the 50th anniversary of his death in 1912 .


Grave of Johann Nestroy in the Vienna Central Cemetery
20 Schilling coin (2001)

Nestroy died on May 25, 1862 at the age of 61 in Graz and was initially buried in the Währing local cemetery. On September 22nd, 1890, he was reburied in an honorary grave at the Vienna Central Cemetery (Group 32 A, number 6) without any mention of Marie Weiler, who was also buried there, on the tombstone. The inscription that can be seen today was only added in 2004.

In 1872, Nestroygasse was named after him in Hadersdorf-Weidlingau , since 1938 part of Vienna's 14th district, Penzing , in the same year Nestroygasse in the 2nd district, Leopoldstadt , and in 1932, also in the 2nd district, Nestroyplatz (since 1979 subway station); the Art Nouveau building Nestroyhof has been located there since 1898 .

A monument to Johann Nestroy, created by Oskar Thiede , has stood at the junction of Zirkusgasse near Praterstrasse 17 since 1983 . It had originally been on Nestroyplatz since 1929, later at the Reinhardt Seminar in the 14th district.

In 1973 the International Nestroy Society was founded with headquarters in Vienna. It organizes the Nestroy Talks annually in Schwechat and was the patron of the historical-critical complete edition , which was published by Deuticke Verlag between 1977 and 2001 . The company also publishes the biannual magazine Nestroyana .

The Johann Nestroy Ring and the Nestroy Theater Prize were also named after him.

Many of Nestroy's pieces are now part of the standard repertoire of German-speaking, especially Austrian, theaters. Nestroy's works are also regularly on the program of some summer stages, including the Nestroy Games in Schwechat , the Nestroy Games in Liechtenstein and the Reichenau Festival .

List of works

Historical drama

Magic pieces, antics, parodies

Johann Nestroy (lithograph by August Prinzhofer 1846)


The works marked with * are described in this main article

Work editions

  • Fritz Brukner , Otto Rommel (Hrsg.): Works - historical-critical complete edition. 15 volumes (volume 15 is the detailed biographical appraisal by Otto Rommel, Wissensstand 1930), Vienna (Schroll) 1924–30; Reprint 1974; also as Kraus reprint AMS Press New York.
  • Jürgen Hein , Johann Hüttner , Walter Obermaier , W. Edgar Yates (eds.): Complete works - historical-critical edition. (With over 50 volumes that are available individually, the most comprehensive and current critical, commented edition of the pieces and letters), Deuticke / Zsolnay, Vienna / Munich 1977ff.
  • Franz H. Mautner (Ed.): Johann Nestroy. Comedies. Edition in six volumes. Insel Verlag , Frankfurt am Main 1970, 2nd edition. 1981.
  • Otto Rommel (ed.): Collected works. 6 volumes (a selection of the 15-volume edition), Vienna 1948–49; Reprinted in 1962.
  • Reinhard Urbach : Keywords and catchwords. Deuticke / Zsolnay, Vienna / Munich 2000, ISBN 3-216-30568-6 .

Role models

See also


Web links

Commons : Johann Nepomuk Nestroy  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Johann Nepomuk Nestroy  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Ahrens: I'm not auctioning myself off to the laurel. Pp. 395-402. (Biographical data for the entire chapter life )
  2. In the somewhat imprecise NDB biography , an otherwise unknown Maria Ludovica v. Maliz (Malix) named as Wilhelmine's mother
  3. Whether the “from” was justified, or whether it was simply accepted by Katharina's father, a major from Moravia , cannot be determined with certainty
  4. in some sources the name sunshine is written, see
  5. Ahrens: I do not rise to the laurel. Pp. 230-231.
  6. ^ Rommel: Nestroys Works. S. XIV, as well as footnote 2; S. LXXX.
  7. Lorenz: An Unknown Child of Johann Nestroy , Vienna, 2015 (English)
  8. Hellmuth Karasek : Letters move the world . Part 2: love, destiny, passion . teNeues, Kempten, 2011, ISBN 978-3-8327-9452-1 , pp. 98-103.
  9. Ahrens: I'm not auctioning myself off to the laurel. Pp. 346-356.
  10. Hunger: Thinking on the Cord of Language. (for the entire chapter on Nestroy's use of language )
  11. Ahrens: I'm not auctioning myself off to the laurel. P. 176.
  12. ^ G. Pfeisinger, The Revolution of 48 in Graz , 1986.
  13. Ahrens: I'm not auctioning myself off to the laurel. P. 303.
  14. Ahrens: I'm not auctioning myself off to the laurel. Pp. 302-303.
  15. Volker Kahmen: Dear Princess: Karl Kraus and Mechtilde Lichnowsky; Letters and Documents, 1916–1958. Wallstein Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-89244-476-5 .
  16. Nestroy †. In:  Blätter für Musik, Theater und Kunst / Blätter für Theater, Musik und Kunst / Zellner's Blätter for theater, music and visual arts , May 27, 1862, p. 2 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / mtk
  17. (Exhumation of Nestroy's bones.). In:  Die Presse , September 18, 1890, p. 9 (online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / maintenance / apr, accessed on May 9, 2020
  18. Late honor for Marie Weiler Rathauskorrespondenz from October 29, 2004 (accessed June 9, 2010).