Excerpt sung by Webster Booth and Jacqueline Francell; broadcast by the BBC, 1935
Photo from The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News shows the leads, Webster Booth and Jacqueline Francell (center); London, 1935
Program cover featuring a drawing by Hein Heckroth; London, 1935
From the program: a map of the two fictitious Caribbean nations, Ucqua and Santa Maria, whose arms race makes up the plot of A Kingdom For a Cow; London, 1935
Juan (Alexander Kaimbacher) and Juanita (Nataliya Kovalova) in the Bregenz Festival production of Der Kuhhandel; Vienna, 2004
The grand finale of Der Kuhhandel at the Bregenz Festival; Vienna, 2004
The Chorus sings the , 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 (). 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 (), the president’s populist rival. Conchas recounts his exploits (). 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 (). 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 (). He goes off to join a work crew (); in a short time, he has saved enough to buy another cow (). 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 (); 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 (), 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 (). The wedding is postponed again, and as Juan prepares to go back to work, the draft is announced (). He goes off to fight; Juanita decides to go to town to earn money (). The dignitaries, meanwhile, are hosting a banquet for the foreign minister of Ucqua. As the occasion proceeds (), Chao and Jones persuade Conchas to launch a coup.
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 (). By then he is thoroughly drunk and launches into a drinking song (). The scene shifts to Juan’s troop; Juan continues to lament his cow (). 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 ().
Siehst Du keine?
Leise, nur leise
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
Ballade vom Räuber Esteban
Ich habe eine Kuh gehabt
Act II Finale
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)
P.W. Waterkeyn, Minister of Ucqua
Various small roles
2 Clarinets (alto and ten. sax
Guitar (banjo, bass guitar)
Organ or harmonium (accordion)
Currently available for stage performances only in a version with libretto revised by Robert Vambery and music completed and edited by Lys Symonette.
Der Kuhhandel. Volksoper Wien. David Pountney, dir. Christoph Eberle, cond.