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Der Kuhhandel (1934)

Operetta in two acts.
Book and lyrics by Robert Vambery.

Currently available for stage performances only in a version with libretto revised by Robert Vambery and music completed and edited by Lys Symonette.

Performance Information
Song List

Drawing from original playbill cover

Poster from 2004 production at the Bregenz Festival.

Performance Information

English title: Horse-Trading
(First performed in English adaptation as A Kingdom for a Cow.)
Cast: Singing roles -- Juanita Sanchez (lyric soprano), Juan Santos (lyric tenor), President Mendez of Santa Maria (tenor buffo), Bimbi, the President's son (boy soprano), Ximenez (tenor buffo), Leslie Jones (operetta baritone), General Garcia Conchas (high operetta baritone), Bailiff (tenor buffo), Schoolmaster Emilio Sanchez (bass-baritone), Juan's mother (mezzo-soprano), Mme. Odette (mezzo-soprano), soldiers, guests, servants (tenors, baritones), chorus, SATB.
Speaking roles -- P.W. Waterkeyn, Minister of Ucqua, Lieutenant, various small roles.
Orchestra: 2.1.2 (alto and ten. sax).1;; harp, guitar (banjo, bass guitar), organ or harmonium (accordion), timp, perc; strings.
Duration: full evening
Performance Rights and Rentals: USA: EAMC
All other territories: SCHOTT
Authorized translation: English--Jeremy Sams
First production (in English adaptation as A Kingdom for a Cow): June 28, 1935, London, Savoy Theatre, Ernest Matrai and Felix Weissberger, dir., Muir Mathieson, cond.
First production (original version, in German): June 18, 1994, Bautzen, Deutsch-Sorbisches Volkstheater, Wolfgang Poch, dir., Dieter Kempe, cond.

Guide to orchestration, territory abbreviations, and publishers' symbols.


Act I

The Chorus sings the Prologue, praising the peace and bounty of their Caribbean island, which is divided into two countries, Santa Maria, where the action takes place, and Ucqua. Act I begins as Juan and Juanita of Santa Maria sing a duet ("Siehst Du keine?"). Juan shows Juanita his cow and says it gives them the means to get married; Juanita promises to persuade her father to bless the union. The scene shifts suddenly to a telephone conversation in which Jones, an arms dealer, orders his agent, Chao, to manipulate the Santa Maria government into buying weapons. In the palace, President Mendez rejects Chao's wiles, until Minister Ximenez, the president's right-hand man, shows the president planted press accounts of an arms buildup in Ucqua. Mendez abruptly decides to order machine guns and rifles. The fearsome Minister of War Garcia Conchas approaches. Mendez and Ximenez are afraid of Conchas ("Leise, nur leise"), the president’s populist rival. Conchas recounts his exploits ("Schockschwerenot!"). After he leaves, Mendez and Ximenez agree to levy a special tax to pay for the weapons, and they agree to conceal the arms purchase from Conchas.

Back in the village, Juanita’s father agrees to the marriage. Juan begins the local marriage ritual, a mock abduction of the bride ("Der Mädchenraub"). As they approach the chapel, a marshal appears and confiscates Juan's cow for failure to pay the special tax. The wedding is postponed, and Juan decides to move to the city to earn the cow back ("Auf wiedersehen"). He goes off to join a work crew ("Pharao"); in a short time, he has saved enough to buy another cow ("Seit ich in diese Stadt"). Meanwhile, Ximenez has taken delivery from Chao; he wakes up the president to tell him that first, they still can't pay for the weapons they've bought, and second, that Conchas knows about the deal. Conchas bursts in and threatens them ("Das Erlebnis im Café"); Ximenez placates him with a gift from the public treasury, requiring another special tax, that will allow Conchas to pay his debts. As they look out over Santa Maria in the moonlight ("Schlafe, Santa Maria"), the three officials decree a military draft and agree to provoke an arms race with Ucqua.

Back in the village, Juan is about to marry Juanita when the marshal appears and confiscates his new cow ("Lied des Gerichtsvollziehers"). The wedding is postponed again, and as Juan prepares to go back to work, the draft is announced ("O trüber Tag"). He goes off to fight; Juanita decides to go to town to earn money ("Es zog zu Salomon"). The dignitaries, meanwhile, are hosting a banquet for the foreign minister of Ucqua. As the occasion proceeds (Act I Finale), Chao and Jones persuade Conchas to launch a coup.

Act II

The establishment of Mme. Odette, next door to the palace, where Juanita has found work. She is sent off to do laundry as the other prostitutes welcome the drunken Conchas. He is unimpressed with their rendition of the national anthem ("Nationalhymne") and tries unsuccessfully to remember a song from his childhood. When he spills wine on his pants, Odette calls for Juanita to remove the stain. She begins humming the same song and Conchas asks her to sing ("Ballade vom Räuber Esteban"). By then he is thoroughly drunk and launches into a drinking song ("Fandango"). The scene shifts to Juan’s troop; Juan continues to lament his cow ("Ich habe eine Kuh gehabt"). In the palace, Ximenez awakens Conchas so he can announce the new government; they agree that he should be an elected dictator. He proclaims war with Ucqua; when Ximenez notes that the treasury is empty again, Conchas orders another special tax. Juan and Juanita reunite when his troop arrives at the palace. Then Juan agrees to act as Conchas's stooge during his forthcoming speech, but Juanita reminds him that the General's plans to go to war will prevent them from getting married. Conchas delivers his speech and closes with the question that Juan is to answer. Juan punches him instead and is sentenced to death forthwith. Members of the firing squad get out their recently purchased rifles and discover that not a single one works. Conchas hastily reverses himself, pardons Juan, and calls for peace. Juan and Juanita pledge their troth at last (Act II Finale).

Song List

Act I

Siehst Du keine?
Leise, nur leise
Der Mädchenraub
Auf wiedersehen
Seit ich in diese Stadt
Das Erlebnis im Café
Schlafe, Santa Maria
Lied des Gerichtsvollziehers
O trüber Tag
Es zog zu Salomon
Act I Finale

Act II

Ballade vom Räuber Esteban
Ich habe eine Kuh gehabt
Act II Finale


Capriccio CD 60 013-1 (reissued on Capriccio C7184) Eberhard Büchner, Lucy Peacock, Christian Schotenröhr, Walter Raffeiner, Oskar Hillebrandt, Kölner Rundfunkorchester, Jan Latham-König, cond. [excerpts]
Phoenix Edition DVD 803 Vienna Volksoper, Ursula Pfitzner, Dietmar Kirschbaum, Michael Kraus, Christoph Eberle, dir., David Pountney, dir.