8507 THE LADY OF THE CASTLE - Sand's Librarian Aria
Tenor Klaus Neumcke sings Sand's Aria (written for this production) in the European premiere of Mira Spektor's one-act ballad opera, THE LADY OF THE CASTLE, based on the play in Hebrew by Lea Goldberg, translated into English by T. Carmi, adapted and translated into German (as DIE HERRIN DES SCHLOSSES) by Leonard Lehrman & Miriam Walter, performed by Klaus Lang (Count), Klaus Neumcke (Sand), Marianne Dorsch (Dora), and Seung Hee Han (Lena) at Kuenstlerhaus Bethanien, July 1985, in West Berlin, designed by Per Lueke, directed by Joachim LaHabana, with instrumental ensemble (including Elka Pallmann, flute and Stephanie Schmoeckel, cello) conducted from the piano and harpsichord by Leonard Lehrman, presented by the Juedischer Musiktheaterverein Berlin.
Added: 4 months ago
"Lady of the Castle" is Goldberg's attempt to delineate the differences between the free-spirited Sabras who looked to the future and the downtrodden Old World Diaspora Jews who were victims of the Holocaust. The play occurs in 1947, two years after the Shoah that resulted from the Nazi occupation, in what Goldberg depicts as a nebulous part of Central Europe. Dr. Dora Ringel, a social worker and member of Youth Aliyah in Palestine, is searching for Jewish children who may have survived the Holocaust. She is accompanied by Michael Sand, a former librarian who has embraced the Eretz Israeli concept of socialism for the collective good of the country, willingly adapting himself to diverse roles such as farmer, soldier, and teacher. His mission is to recover books that the Nazis stole from Jewish libraries.
Sand's role in the play is to allow Dora an audience for her progressive views on modern Palestine while playing devil's advocate as Goldberg's raisonneur, albeit unsuccessfully, for the notion that the refined culture of the Old World, despite the Shoah, is not without merit.
Dora and Sand discover that, although the war has been over for two years, Lena Brabant, a nineteen-year-old Jewess, has been hiding from the Nazis for the past three years in an old castle run by a gentile aristocrat named Zabrodsky.
The play develops into a battle of wills between Zabrodsky, who represents the Old World European notion of noblesse oblige, versus Dora, the Sabra Jew, for control of Lena's spirit and soul. Given the fact that Zabrodsky is fifty-seven years old and Dora is nearly one generation younger at forty, the conflict thus becomes a generational battle of Old World (Europe) versus new (soon-to-be Israel) for the soul of the Jew. Moreover, Goldberg's portrayal of Lena indicates that the Old World Diaspora Jews will have to change their personae to fit into modern Israeli culture.
Lady of the Castle
(Translated by T. Carmi)
Michael Sand, a librarian from Palestine, about forty years old.
Dr. Dora Ringel, social worker, about forty years old.
Zabrodsky, caretaker of the castle, about fifty-seven years old.
Lena, nineteen years old.
An old castle in Central Europe. The same set is used throughout the play.
About two years after the Second World War (September 1947).
Act I. Between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.
Act II. Between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m.
Act III. Between 11:00 p.m. and midnight.
The library. Bookcases along the walls. Paintings by old masters and tapestries. One window with heavy curtains (which are now open). Two medium-sized tables and deep-set armchairs. A sofa. On one of the tables, an electric kettle and tea service for two. On the second (by the sofa), a telephone. A librarian's ladder by the right bookcase. Above the wall tapestry, between the bookcases, center, an old cuckoo clock. Doors to the right and left.
A rainy, stormy evening with occasional lightning and thunder. Sand, Zabrodsky, and Dora are standing in the room. Dora carries a raincoat on her arm and a briefcase in her hand.
SAND. I'm very sorry, Mr. Zabrodsky, but we have no choice. We must impose on your hospitality tonight.
ZABRODSKY. (Unrelenting.) I'm only the caretaker here. I have no authority to lodge strangers for the night.
SAND. But what shall we do?
ZABRODSKY. I would advise you to call the city; perhaps those who sent you will be kind enough to propose some solution ...
DORA. At this hour?!
SAND. I've already tried to call. The line is cut. Probably because of the storm. I'd be very grateful if you ...
ZABRODSKY. I have no authority.
SAND. (Forcefully.) The government's instructions, which I handed over to you, explicitly say that you are to place the library at my disposal and render all possible assistance. I think that also covers the possibility of lodging here in case of emergency. Look what's going on outside! And there's plenty of room here!
ZABRODSKY. This castle is now a museum. It is not customary to sleep in a museum. And ... you have brought a guest, of whom no mention is made in the instructions ...
DORA. (A bit hurt; hesitantly.) Really, Sand, maybe we should try to go!
SAND. You're out of your mind! Look! It's sixty kilometers to the nearest town. And you know what condition the car is in ... (A thunder clap cuts him short.)
ZABRODSKY. (Seeing he has no choice in the matter.) I quite understand, sir, that it's difficult to travel now. But the castle is a museum ... There are no sleeping accommodations ... and when one is only an employee responsible to the authorities, a mere caretaker ... one hesitates to violate the law ... (Thunder.)
SAND. But on such a night the law wouldn't force even a dog out of doors!
ZABRODSKY. Not so, my dear sir, nowadays the law dispatches men to perdition - without the slightest qualm.
SAND. And are you the representative of the law here?
ZABRODSKY. Hardly. I'm its victim.
SAND. Ah, it's not such a terrible offense. Nobody will jail you for not throwing people out on a stormy night. If you wish, I'll go over to the ministry tomorrow, as soon as I get to town, and explain the whole matter to them ... at any rate, we're not leaving this place tonight! Well?
ZABRODSKY. (Cornered.) Well, then, you have no need of my consent - but please do not think it's a question of ill will on my part - after all, there are no accommodations at all in the castle, no beds, no linens or anything of that sort ... and I ... rather thought that some hotel along the highway would be more to the lady's taste.
DORA. I would really prefer some country inn ...
ZABRODSKY. For that very reason I suggested ...
DORA. Old castles are quite beautiful, but not to live in ...
ZABRODSKY. (Staring at her.) I see! (Listens to the thunder.) Please sit down! (Dora sits down, Sand stands.)
SAND. (To Dora.) Really, Dora, I'm terribly sorry ... I only meant to show you the castle ... And now I'm afraid it's all been a bother to you. And what's more - we're a burden on Mr. Zabrodsky ...
ZABRODSKY. No, not at all. I will arrange everything for you immediately ... Would you like to lie down and rest?
DORA. Now! At nine o'clock?!
ZABRODSKY. Yes, yes ... It is still quite early. If you would prefer to sit here awhile, please do so. (To Sand.) Why are you standing, sir? Please sit down. You are my guests now. (Sand sits down.)
DORA. Unexpected guests are a nuisance, I know.
ZABRODSKY. I shall see to the arrangements. When you wish to retire, please call me. I shall be in my room, below. (To Sand.) You know where that is, sir.
SAND. Thank you very much. And forgive us for having forced ourselves on you, Mr. Zabrodsky, but we really had no choice.
ZABRODSKY. No matter, no matter ... (Turns to go, hesitates by the doorway.) But, nonetheless, perhaps you are tired?
SAND. No, no! And if you're not tired, Mr. Zabrodsky, and if you don't mind spending an evening with strangers, we'd be very happy if you'd stay with us.
ZABRODSKY. That's very kind of you. (Approaches them, but does not sit down.)
SAND. (To Dora.) That's how life knocks one about! Wars, storms, upheavals ... and one is always a burden on somebody, unintentionally, against one's will. (To Zabrodsky.) Won't you sit down, sir? (Zabrodsky continues to stand.)
SAND. (To Dora.) By force of accident you break into a different world and then find yourself captive. (Looks around the room.) But what a wonderful captivity! I'd be willing to stay in this library for many months ... with these books and these paintings ...
DORA. (To Zabrodsky.) Please don't be frightened. Whenever he sees books, he can't tear himself away. But we won't impose on you more than it's absolutely necessary. I'll see to that. We'll leave tomorrow morning at dawn. I must get back to the city early.
ZABRODSKY. (Courteously.) Why no, on the contrary ... I hope you will enjoy your stay here ... Please do not blame me for my rudeness. It is many years since I have had the pleasure of entertaining guests. Living alone in a forest, one becomes uncivilized and uncourteous.
SAND. Why, not at all. We're the ones who should apologize, not you ... But won't you sit down, please?
ZABRODSKY. (Standing.) And you're most probably hungry and thirsty - would you like some tea?
SAND. It's very kind of you, but ...
ZABRODSKY. No, no, it is no trouble at all ...
DORA. Tea, now, in this storm and cold ... that would be wonderful. (Bends over the kettle.) Well, this is a woman's job ... (Raises the cover of the kettle.) Yes, but water ...
ZABRODSKY. I will bring some immediately.
DORA. Please, sir, if you'd like us to feel at home, then let me fetch the water. At the end of the corridor, behind the small room (points at the door.) I noticed a tap ...
ZABRODSKY. (Trying to suppress his indignation.) I see that madam has already made a thorough survey of the castle ...
DORA. (Sensing his anger.) While Mr. Sand was busy in the library, I looked over the rooms a bit. I didn't know it was forbidden ...
ZABRODSKY. Why, not at all.
DORA. Then, with your permission ... (Takes the kettle and starts for the door.)
ZABRODSKY. But nevertheless, madam, perhaps I ... (Dora exits.)
SAND. (After Dora leaves the room.) Don't worry about her, sir, she'll find her way. Her work has taught her to get along in strange places. Do sit down. Please! (Short pause. Zabrodsky sits. Sand, at a loss to open the conversation, surveys the books.) What a wonderful collection.
ZABRODSKY. I am pleased, sir, that you have found books of interest to you ... Have you had time to examine all of them?
SAND. No, there are still two shelves (rises) - these two - ah, when I come to places like these and see such a library - such fine libraries where the Nazis did as they pleased, vandalizing books collected here over generations ...
ZABRODSKY. You're quite right, they did as they pleased.
SAND. (Goes over to the shelf.) Here is a first edition of Voltaire - and they ripped off the covers ... What for?
ZABRODSKY. They turned the leather covers into pocketbooks for their mistresses.
SAND. I can't look at such things calmly ... It makes my blood boil ...
ZABRODSKY. I quite understand your feeling. After all, you are a librarian!
SAND. As a matter of fact, I'm not a librarian ...
ZABRODSKY. I beg your pardon?
SAND. I was a librarian, many years ago ...
ZABRODSKY. But the official instructions describe you as ...
SAND. Yes, I now have to deal with books again. (Laughs.) Oh, I didn't come here under false pretenses! (Sees Zabrodsky's anxiety.) You see, sir, in our country you will hardly find anyone who has stuck to the same profession during all these years. I've changed mine quite often ... I used to be a librarian - and then our country needed farmers, so I went to a collective settlement; the children grew up and had to be educated - so I became a teacher; then, back to the land again; when the war came - I turned soldier; when the war was over - back to farming. (Shows his hands.) Here, look at my hands ...
ZABRODSKY. (Smiles.) "The hands are the hands of Esau ... " (Sand looks at him.) Isn't that how the Bible puts it?
SAND. Yes, indeed.
ZABRODSKY. And now you have again turned librarian?
SAND. For a short while. I was slightly wounded during the war, and afterward I went back home, to the fields ...
ZABRODSKY. Perhaps I'd better go and show the lady where the water is!
SAND. No. Why bother? She'll find it!
ZABRODSKY. Are you sure?
SAND. Of course. I told you she's accustomed to strange houses. That's part of her job.
ZABRODSKY. I see ... ah, please excuse the interruption ... you said you were wounded during the war and then went home.
SAND. Yes, and then the wound acted up again. I've been disqualified for physical labor, and I don't have the patience to sit around in a convalescent home. Recently, we learned that many of the books stolen from Jewish libraries in Germany were scattered about by the Nazis in this country. I've been sent here to track them down and ship them to our National Library in Jerusalem ... it's a wonderful vacation for me, without being a complete waste of time.
ZABRODSKY. And so you travel from castle to castle.
SAND. From library to library and from castle to castle, and the more remote the place, the greater the surprises. And that intrigues me. I'm a hunter by nature, you know, a book hunter.