Nestroy, Johann Nepomuk Eduard Ambrosius
Johann Nestroy. Photo.
Nestroy, Johann (Nepomuk Eduard Ambrosius), b. Vienna, Dec. 7, 1801, d. Graz (Styria), May 25, 1862, actor, singer, satirical and humoristic playwright, most prominent playwright of the Viennese popular theatre in the Biedermeier period Volkstheater. Started his career as an opera singer and actor at various theatres, from 1832 at the Theater an der Wien and collaboration with the comic actor W. Scholz. First great success with "Der böse Geist Lumpacivagabundus" (1833), a magic play. N.'s style, which blends sophisticated irony with disillusioned scepticism contrasts with that of his contemporary F. Raimund, whose plays are often sentimental and naive fantasy. N. depicts human weaknesses using his unique power of expression in both local dialect and literary language, which makes him a true master of language. His extensive work includes popular plays, magical farces and comedies of manner in the realistic satirical vein. N. soon became the most prominent and influential playwright of the popular theatre then thriving on the stages of suburban Vienna. His plays were inspired by contemporary English and German comedies and French vaudeville. The songs, which are an integral part of N.'s plays, were composed by Adolf Müller Sr. N.'s dialectic humour, excelling in puns and aphorisms, was much appreciated by his contemporaries. His success reached its peak between 1838 and 1844, when his most popular plays, among them "Der Talisman" (1840), "Das Mädl aus der Vorstadt" (1841) and "Einen Jux will er sich machen" (1842), were staged. N.'s most successful plays are farces with songs, that N. established as a genre. The quality of his work, which goes beyond ephemeral popular theatre, was recognized by K. Kraus, who started a Nestroy revival in the 20th century. Since 2000 the city of Vienna has awarded "N." theatre prizes (previously J. Kainz medals).
Johann Nestroy as Sansquartier, water colour painting, 1842 (Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien)
Further works: (approx. 80 plays survived): Die Familien Zwirn, Knieriem und Leim, 1834; Zu ebener Erde und erster Stock, 1835; Die beiden Nachtwandler, 1836; Das Haus der Temperamente, 1837; Glück, Mißbrauch und Rückkehr, 1838; Die verhängnisvolle Faschingsnacht, 1839; Liebesgeschichten und Heiratssachen, 1843; Der Zerrissene, 1844; Unverhofft, 1845; Der Unbedeutende, 1846; Der Schützling, 1847; Die schlimmen Buben in der Schule, 1847; Freiheit in Krähwinkel, 1848; Höllenangst, 1849; Judith und Holofernes, 1849; Mein Freund, 1851; Kampl, 1852; "Nur keck!", 1855; Tannhäuser, 1857; Lohengrin, 1859. - Editions: Complete Works. Histor. crit. ed. by J. Hein, J. Hüttner, W. Obermaier and W. E. Yates, 1977ff.; Briefe, ed. by W. Obermaier, 1977.
Literature: F. H. Mautner, N. 1974; H. Ahrens, Bis zum Lorbeer versteig' ich mich nicht. J. N. - sein Leben, 1982; J. Hein, J. N., 1990; J. Hein, Das Wr. Volkstheater. Raimund u. N., 21991; J. Hein, Theaterg'schichten. Ein Führer durch Nestroys Stücke, 2001.
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