Vienna lavishly presents the quest for immortality in a fabulous age of pomp and circumstance. The grand waltz of Hapsburg society is seen through the eyes of one of the city’s most famous citizens, playwright Arthur Schnitzler. Schnitzler is a doctor who wants to be a writer. In an effort to define himself as an artist he sets out to discover “what’s wrong with Vienna?”
In 1888, Vienna is the center of Europe, a crossroads of cultures old and new. It’s a fairy tale kingdom, steadfast in its traditions, decadent in its manners, awash with strange and new ideas. It is a cradle for the progressive ideas of the modern age, a well spring of Jewish inspiration and a breeding ground for future anti-Semitism.
At the center of the storm is Prince Rudolf, the Hapsburg prince. Adored by the people, Rudolf is still consumed by uncertainty. He dreams of being emperor, but his father, Franz Joseph, is stubborn and refuses to die. Feeling redundant, Rudolf devotes his time to decadence and romantic affairs.
Schnitzler is fascinated by Rudolf and other local figures not yet so well known. He rubs elbows with unhappy notables like Sigmund Freud, Anton Bruckner, and Theodor Herzl, as well as artists like Hugo Wolf and Johan Strauss II. The unknowns long to be recognized – the famous pine for artistic freedom.
Freud struggles with impotency and cocaine addiction. Bruckner longs to be as great as Wagner or Brahms. Herzl romances Sarah Bernhardt and courts anti-Semites to get ahead as a playwright. A traveling con man takes in Strauss with promises of immortality and Hugo Wolf finds death lurking beneath romance.
All of the stories dovetail when Prince Rudolf and his young mistress, Mary Vetsara, die in a suicide pact. Each artist is forced to confront his own mortality and his place in the new world without princes and fairy tales.
In the end, Schnitzler must confront his own honesty as an artist. Should he paint the world the way the romantics wish to see it, or should he view it with the coldness that seems to grip his own heart?
Actors double in some parts. Total number of roles: 12
|Dr. Arthur Schnitzler||A doctor, a would-be writer, 26, Tenor.|
|Johann Strauss II||A successful yet unhappy composer, 59, Baritone.|
|Anton Bruckner||Another unhappy composer, 64, Baritone.|
|Kathi Kachelmeyer (Kokellmayer)||Bruckner’s overprotective housekeeper, 30’s, Alto.|
|Phillip Elkins||Representative of Edison Labs, 30’s.|
|Henrietta Samut||A sweet young girl moving to Vienna, 16, Soprano.|
|Dr. Sigmund Freud||An impoverished doctor, 32, Tenor.|
|Martha Freud||His wife, 30, Alto.|
|Crown Prince Rudolf||Heir to the Hapsburg Throne, handsome, dashing, troubled, 30, Tenor.|
|Princess Stephanie||Rudolph’s wife, 28, Soprano.|
|Baroness Mary Vetsera||Rudolph’s mistress, 17, Soprano.|
|Josef Bratfisch||Footman to the prince, 30’s.|
|Hugo Wolf||A mad composer, 28, Tenor.|
|Melanie Kochert||Wolf’s patron, 30, Alto.|
|Theodor Herzl||A critic and would-be playwright, 28, Baritone.|
|Sarah Bernhardt||A beloved actress, 44, Alto.|
|George Von Schonerer||A notorious anti-Semite, 30’s, Baritone.|
|Klara||A mother visiting Vienna, 30’s, Soprano.|