The aim is to hoodwink the know-it-alls of this world! How is this to be achieved? By issuing a vociferous invitation to a spectacular show! This brings everyone from the mayor to the riff-raff running into town. The juggler and his accomplices now proceed to present a pack of lies and tall stories to their audience: first they summon up St Onuphri, the hirsute patron saint of the weavers onto their improvised wooden stage; he is followed by the appearance of the fabulous(ly) impudent Goggolori. As none of the astute members of the audience is keen to admit that they cannot see these two apparitions, the swindlers have a simple job, as those who are willing to be so easily duped are all the more susceptible to being relieved of far more than merely their faculties of perception. With accomplished hocus-pocus, the juggler conjures up a robe that is so finely woven that it cannot be seen with the naked eye. The crowd marvels at the magnificence of this garment which additionally promises the ability to look into the future, and the mayor does not hesitate to pull off his shirt and trousers to slip on this fine robe. Naturally, the rest of the onlookers do not want to be left behind and follow his actions because of course they all want to try on the magic robe. They are all so enthusiastic that no-one notices that they are all standing around in their underwear while the juggler and his companions are secretly stashing away the citizens’ clothes together with their money and jewellery. Initially, the duped crowd suspects nothing when it suddenly goes dark when the juggler’s accomplices extinguish all the lanterns, but suddenly they realise what has happened: they have been relieved of all their possessions! Enraged, the crowd surges forward to seize the tricksters who have however miraculously disappeared without trace. But wait: are there not a few people laughing among the crowd? They must be in with the rogues otherwise why would they be laughing so mischievously?! The tricked citizens demand the return of their possessions, cursing and swearing and scuffles threaten to break out. Only the reappearance of the juggler in a new disguise prevents the situation from getting out of hand. What has got to offer now? He is able to transform buttons into gold coins…
Orff‘s Bavarian Comedy about the deceived know-alls utilises a universal theme in world literature which can be found in works by Plautus, Hans Sachs, Miguel de Cervantes and not least also Hans Christian Andersen. The curious title of the piece is derived from the Latin word astutus (clever) in its diminutive form astutulus which could be translated as “quite clever”: astutuli could therefore be understood as “smart alecs”. It is precisely this Latin word which sets off the action of the work: the juggler lures his audience from the fireside with his calls of Astutuli!
Astutuli is a work for actors rather than singers. The renunciation of signing corresponds to the almost complete renunciation of melody. In contrast, the rhythmical recitation of the ribald text comes all the more to the fore. The omission of melodic structures is also reflected in the orchestra which is bereft of any melodic instrument, but creates a pyrotechnical display of fireworks in the percussion section which greatly intensify the spoken word – a technique first utilised by Orff in the witches’ scene in Bernauerin.
Auf der Bühne: hg. Beck.