Kleider machen Leute (opera)

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Kleider machen Leute
Comic opera by Alexander von Zemlinsky
The composer in 1908
Translation Clothes make the man
Librettist Leo Feld
Language German
Based on Kleider machen Leute
by Gottfried Keller
Premiere 2 December 1910 (1910-12-02)
Vienna Volksoper

Kleider machen Leute (Clothes make the man or Fine feathers make fine birds) is a comic opera in a prologue and two acts by Austrian composer Alexander Zemlinsky. The libretto was written by Leo Feld, based on the short novel by Gottfried Keller.

Composition and performance history[edit]

Zemlinsky started work on the opera in 1907, and completed a three-act version in 1909. He made revisions in 1910, reducing the number of acts to two. This first version was premiered at the Vienna Volksoper on 2 December 1910.[1]

For a revival in Prague in 1922, Zemlinsky made further revisions. This second (and final) version was premiered at the Neues Deutsches Theater in Prague on 20 April 1922.[2] The score is published by Universal Edition Vienna.[3]


Role[3] Voice type Premiere Cast[1]
First version
Vienna, 2 December 1910
(Conductor: )
Premiere Cast[2]
Second version
Prague, 20 April 1922
(Conductor: Alexander Zemlinsky)
Wenzel Strapinski, a tailor's apprentice from Seldwyla tenor Richard Kubla
First tailor's apprentice, Wenzel's friend tenor
Second tailor's apprentice, Wenzel's friend baritone
Administrator (Der Amtsrat) baritone
Nettchen, his daughter soprano Maria Müller
Melchior Böhni baritone
Kutscher baritone
Litumlei bass
Federspiel tenor
Häberlein tenor
Innkeeper baritone
Pütschli baritone



On a provincial road, Wenzel Strapinski (a tailor's apprentice) is saying goodbye to two of his colleague friends. Suddenly, a magnificent carriage stops next to him. The coachman takes Wenzel to Goldach, introduces him there as a count, and then disappears.

Act 1[edit]

The citizens of Goldach admire the newcomer. The administrator and his daughter Nettchen join them. Only Melchior Böhni, who is in love with Nettchen but was rejected by her, is suspicious.

Act 2[edit]

Strapinski loves Nettchen, but is in two minds about the deceit. When he decides to leave, Nettchen stops him. His rival Böhni then exposes Strapinski as an impostor. Strapinski convinces the people of Goldach who treated him as a count that his only motive for playing along was his love for Nettchen. When he wants to leave, Nettchen stops him again, declaring that if she can not be a countess, she will gladly be the wife of a master tailor.



  1. ^ a b "Musical events 2 December 1910". Italy: AmadeusOnline. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Musical events 20 April 1922". Italy: AmadeusOnline. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Alexander Zemlinsky - Kleider machen Leute". Universal Edition. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 


  • Batta, András, Opera - Komponisten, Werke, Interpreten (Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2000, Dutch translation)