Act I Scene 30


Night on Graben[1].

TWO PROFITEERS[2] (with girlfriends, all arm in arm and cheerfully drunk, trilling away):     Stargazer – stargazer – watch out for yourself –[3]

NEWSPAPER VENDOR:    Extra edition – forty thousand Russians die before fortress at Przemisel – !

PROFITEER 1:    – stargazer – stargazer –

PROFITEER 2:    – watch out for yourself – (off.)

[1] Graben is now a pedestrianised area in the old city, in the Hofburg quarter; a major shopping street.

[2] The German Kettenhandler, literally ‘chain seller’, refers to a chain of middlemen; from the New York Times, 25 April 1920: ‘In its attempts to keep German profiteers somewhere within bounds the German government has made considerable use of an ordinance forbidding ‘Kettenhandel’, i.e. the purchase and resale to each other of articles by members of the same business category in mere speculative trade’.

[3] A song from the operetta ‘Die Sterngucker’, ‘The Stargazer’ (1916), by Franz Léhar, libretto by Fritz Löhner and Alfred Maria Willner; reviewing it Alfred Polgar (1873-1955) wrote: ‘The living beings who communicate by song in operetta… are a secret sect over whose actions a veil is cast similar to the one that sits over the emotional life of the goldfish’. Kraus would have approved of the sentiments but it is hard now not to echo Noel Coward’s words from ‘Private Lives’ (1930): ‘Extraordinary how potent cheap music is’.