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Der Jasager (The Yes-Sayer)

School opera in two acts. Libretto by Bertolt Brecht in collaboration with Elisabeth Hauptmann. Adapted from Arthur Waley's English version of the Japanese play Taniko.

Work Details


35 minutes

First Performance

23 June 1930 as a radio broadcast; 24 June 1930 as a stage production, Berlin, Zentralinstitut für Erziehung und Unterricht, Kurt Drabek, cond.

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Act I

The chorus announces the theme of the work: When you agree to a course of action, you must understand it fully (). The teacher, who keeps a school in the city, enters. He hopes to bid farewell to one of his students before he goes off on a trip over the mountains (). At the house, he asks the boy why he has not been to school recently, and the boy replies that his mother has been ill. The teacher describes his trip to the mother, who asks if he wants to bring the boy along (). The boy asks to make the trip (). The teacher forbids it–the journey is too long and difficult and he should stay home. But the boy reminds him that he is visiting a great physician, who might be able to help his mother. His mother reluctantly allows the boy to make the trip (). The chorus reinforces the decision ().

Act II

The chorus explains that the teacher, the boy, and three older students are on the way back, and the boy is exhausted (. As they approach their shelter, the boy confesses that he is not well (). The teacher tells him it is forbidden to say such things on the journey, but the three students have overheard and demand to speak to the teacher. He admits that the boy is ill, and the students remind him of the strict old custom that whoever falls ill during the journey over the mountains must be hurled into the valley (). The teacher reminds them that the sick person may also demand that the entire party turn back. Then he goes to the boy and offers him the choice (). The boy decides that he knew the risks and should not impede the expedition. He asks only that the three students fill his jar with medicine and take it to his mother, and they agree. Then the three students bear him gently to the cliff and throw him over. The chorus reiterates the theme ( reprise).

  • Cast

    • Singing Roles

      • The Boy (tenor or boy soprano)
      • The Mother (mezzo)
      • The Teacher (baritone)
      • Three students (2 tenors, 1 baritone)
      • Chorus, SATB
  • Instrumentation

    • Flute
    • Clarinet
    • Alto saxophone
    • 2 Pianos
    • Harmonium
    • Percussion
    • Plucked instruments ad lib. (guitar, banjo, lute)
    • Strings (without violas)

Universal Edition, UE 8229

Piano-vocal score
(German), Universal Edition, UE 8206

Piano-vocal score
(English–Potts), Universal Edition, UE 8206E

  • English

    • H.M. Potts
    • Michael Feingold
  • French

    • Edouard Pfrimmer
  • Italian

    • Luigi Rognoni

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