Junge Szene

Das schlaue Gretchen

Martin Smolka

Children's opera for everyone aged 8 and above Libretto by Klaus Angermann after the fairytale »Königin Rolleriana, die Erste« by Jan Werich

Premiere 11. June 2021

Performed in German

Gretchen, the fisherman’s daughter, is very clever. She even knows how to visit someone in a very unusual way: Neither by car nor on foot, neither clothed nor naked, neither shod nor barefoot, neither bearing gifts nor empty handed. Nobody is able to repeat this fine trick. Just as well that the King likes smart women. They fall in love and Gretchen becomes Queen – at least for a while, because the King is very proud, and trouble is surely around the corner! But Gretchen doesn’t let herself be beaten, and in the end turns the tables on her lover using his own tools. This children’s opera by Martin Smolka from 2006 brings many surprises to young and old alike with its unique and unusual sounds. The piece is staged by Andrea Kramer, who recently directed »Schneewitte« in Semper Zwei, with four singers, one actor, 13 musicians … and lots of fun.


The miller and the fisherman have a quarrel which they take to the king: Who does the water of the brook belong to? But before the king pronounces his judgement, he gives them both three riddles that they have to solve by the next day: From what does man derive the most benefit? What is sweeter than anything else in the world? And what is the name of man's worst enemy? The fisherman is despondent, but he has an idea about how to get out of this mess: he simply asks his clever daughter Gretchen. As expected, she solves the riddle in no time, and when he comes to the king the next day, the latter is very impressed with the fisherman's answer. The miller, on the other hand, is thrown into prison. The king has his doubts, however, that the fisherman came up with the answer on his own. After some hesitation, the fisherman admits that his daughter helped him, and the king is now bent on making the girl’s acquaintance. He invites Gretchen to the castle, but she has to come to him riding yet not riding, clothed yet not clothed, with shoes yet without shoes, combed yet uncombed, with a gift and at the same time without a gift.

The clever fisher girl doesn't hesitate for long and builds a scooter on which she can ride to the castle while walking at the same time. Her mother sews her a dress out of fishing net and her father prepares an unusual gift. When Gretchen finally stands before the king, he immediately falls in love with her and the two marry. Gretchen only has to promise her husband one thing: she must never interfere in his government affairs! 

After many happy months, the king witnesses a dispute between a mare merchant and a gelding merchant over a foal that had run away from its mother and then lay under a gelding. The king decides in favor of the gelding merchant and the distraught mare merchant secretly turns to the clever queen. Despite her bad conscience and against her promise never to interfere, she advises the merchant how to get his foal back. Her plan works. The king, however, immediately guesses who it was who helped the mare merchant and, for her interference, sends his wife back to live with her parents. She is not permitted to take anything with her, except for what she likes the most in his castle. Clever as she is, while bidding farewell Gretchen gets the king drunk, summarily rolls him inside a carpet and has him brought to the fisherman's cottage. When the king wakes up there the next morning and Gretchen tells him that HE is what she loves most in the whole castle, he happily returns with her to his home. But because she is so clever, much cleverer than him, he makes her regent and declares her Queen Rolleriana the First, putting her in charge of the fortunes of the empire while he will always be at her side as the prince consort.