Der Schatzgräber – Synopsis

explained by director Christof Loy

 

Prologue

Since her jewels were stolen, the queen has been suffering from a strange, insidious disease. No other treasure in the world can restore her beauty and vitality. The fool tells of a mysterious treasure hunter who roams the land as a ballad singer, vanishing as swiftly as he appears. This man, he says, would surely be the only person able to recover the queen's stolen treasure. The king orders the fool to track the man down. If he succeeds, the king promises to grant the fool's wish and let him have a wife.

 

Act One

The waitress Els must marry a rich country squire the following day. She sends him to the jeweller Master Luck to buy some bridal jewellery that she longs to possess. She is determined to get out of the wedding, as she has done twice before, and instructs the cringingly devoted Albi to murder the squire on the way back through the forest and bring her the necklace. Only she knows that the necklace is part of the queen's jewels. She disposed of her previous two suitors in the same fashion, after first obtaining other items of the coveted treasure.

Els is courted by many men, though she herself has childish fantasies about a fairy-tale prince that will carry her off to his castle. One of her admirers is the minister of the police, the bailiff, whose hopes she is careful to keep up.

One day she encounters a man who appears to her just like a prince out of her book of fairy tales. He is a story teller and ballad singer. His daydreams seem to become reality. When he recounts a dream in which his lute miraculously led him to a piece of valuable jewellery in a forest, he suddenly has it in his hand. It is the very necklace the squire was supposed to procure for Els.

For Els there can be no doubt. This is the man she has waited for all her life. But another reality abruptly breaks in upon this unfolding dream: the squire has been found brutally murdered. 

The bailiff suspects Elis the singer of the fatal robbery and has him arrested. Els is desperate. How can she save Elis without exposing her own guilt? And without giving herself up to the bailiff …

 

Act Two

The sentence has been pronounced: Elis will be publicly executed. The fool comes and talks to the dejected Els. It dawns on him that the man who is to be hanged at daybreak is no other than the urgently sought-after treasure hunter. The fool assures Els that he will save Elis's life and speak to the king on his behalf. The fool would then get his reward: a wife of his own. But cruel as fate is, he has fallen in love with Els.

The bailiff wants to proceed with the sentence and have Elis hanged. But Els is able to inform Elis that he could be saved by the king himself. He simply has to gain time until his rescuer arrives in the shape of the king's messenger. Elis sings. It is a hymn to love, a love he now feels for Els.

And again it all seems like a fairy tale: a royal herald announces that Elis is pardoned. The queen wishes to see the treasure hunter and requests him to find her lost treasure with the help of the magic lute and songs. Should he fail, however, he will be publicly humiliated and forced to leave the country.

Thus, Elis's rescue only brings renewed distress for Els: she is certain that Elis will find the treasure in her possession, revealing her to be the criminal.

One again she exploits the unfortunate Albi, who is to help her by stealing the lute. She will reward him for it with her affections.

 

Act Three

Els continues to fantasise about fame and love, and dreams of leaving her childhood behind.

But she only gets more woefully entangled. Albi has succeeded in stealing the lute without being recognised. But Elis, who dreams of going up in the world as much as Els, feels he has now hit rock bottom. Without his magic instrument he won't be able to pull off the great exploit of finding the queen's jewellery.

Els promises him a night of love, at the end of which she will place the fabled jewels in his hands. She only requires that he should never ask how she came by them and thereby demonstrate his unwavering love for her. Elis accedes to these peculiar terms – and to an enchanted night of love.

 

Act Four

Elis has delivered the jewellery to the queen and is now knighted by the king in a public ceremony. But he senses that he and his partner are being laughed at. 

In an emotional outburst he attacks the queen and demands the jewellery back for Els. Amid the ensuing uproar, the bailiff suddenly arrives. He has extracted a confession from Albi. It's now clear that Els incited the besotted Albi several times to murder and robbery.

The fool finally saves Els's life by insisting he had been promised a wife should he be able to get the treasure back. His choice is Els.

Society spurns the odd couple. And Elis's love waned when he heard what Els had done.

 

Epilogue

A year has passed. The fool has not found happiness with Els. She is wasting away and her end is near. The fool has called for Elis in the hope that he might make Els happy. But nothing remains for Elis but to sing Els to eternal sleep. It's a song about the loving couple Els and Elis. 

Els expires. The singer vanishes, just as he came. The fool is lonelier than ever; for all others life goes on as before.

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