The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent

The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent (German: Badener Lehrstück vom Einverständnis) is a Lehrstück by the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, written in collaboration with Slatan Dudow and Elisabeth Hauptmann.[1] Under the title Lehrstück it was first performed with music by Paul Hindemith as part of the Baden-Baden festival on 28 July 1929, at the Stadthalle, Baden-Baden, directed by Brecht, designed by Heinz Porep.[2]


Brecht's programme note described the work as unfinished and as the "product of various theories of a musical, dramatic and political nature aiming at the collective practice of the arts".[3] The 50-minute piece was conceived as a multi-media performance, including scenes of physical knockabout clowning, choral sections and a short film by Carl Koch, Dance of Death, featuring Valeska Gert ([4]

Along with its companion, the radio cantata Lindbergh's Flight, the piece was offered as an example of a new genre, "the teaching-play or Lehrstück", in which the traditional division between actor and audience is abolished; the piece is intended for its participants only[5] (Brecht specifically including the film makers and clowns along with the chorus[6]). The final chorus of Lindbergh's Flight appears at the beginning of The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent.[7] "Cruelty, violence and death" are explored by the play, which "broaches the subject of complicity between the helper and the forces of power and violence."[8] The action concerns a wrecked flight crew being brought to terms with their non-existence. While the pilot complains that he must not die, the others accept that their significance lies in being anonymous parts of a larger whole.

A grotesque clown scene, in which the first clown, called Smith, is violently dismembered by his two friends in an attempt to alleviate his pain, caused spectators at the Baden-Baden festival to riot, according to the actor who played Smith; the playwright Gerhardt Hauptmann walked out.[9] (This clown scene was later reworked by Heiner Müller in his Heartplay, 1981).[10] Despite the controversy, the production was a critical success.[11] Performances in Vienna, Munich, Mainz, Dresden, Breslau and Frankfurt followed.[12] Schott Music published Lehrstück the same year with Hindemith's score.

Brecht almost immediately began revising and took especial exception to Hindemith's performance notes sanctioning cuts. Brecht approached Schott directly and it was from the publisher that Hindemith learned of the demanded changes in the text, which he was not interested in setting to new music. Brecht's text was published in 1930 in vol. two of his Versuche and Schott was forced to take the score out of print.

One disagreement concerned the suitability of the clown scene.[13] In two letters to his wife [14] Hindemith observed that the scene was better spoken than played [acted] and, later, that with neither clowns nor film "the piece is beautiful and has the effect of an old classic." Brecht for his part objected to Hindemith's conception of Gebrauchsmusik which leaned toward Gemeinschaftsmusik or Hausmusik,[15] that is, communal music written for the use of the players, in the case of Lehrstück an orchestra of amateurs who were advised to freely make cuts according to circumstances.[16] While Brecht's conception of the Lehrstück form also aimed at engaging the participants, he naturally viewed the music's 'use' as incidental to the ideas in the play and criticised Hindemith's different end: "the cellist in the orchestra, father of a numerous family, now began to play not from philosophical conviction but for pleasure. The culinary principle was saved."[17] Each dug in his heels and after a 1934 radio broadcast in Brussels neither allowed performances of the other's version. Brecht eventually published his revision in his Collected Plays but there were no public performances until a revival opened on 14 May 1958 in New York, nearly two years after Brecht's death.[18]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 28 July 1929
(Conductors: Alfons Dressel
and Ernst Wolff)
Pilot tenor Josef Witt
Leader of the chorus bass-baritone Oszkár Kálmán
Speaker Gerda Müller-Scherchen (German Wikipedia page)
Three mechanics, also three clowns (spoken) Theo Lingen (Herr Schmitt), Karl Paulsen, Benno Carlé
Trained semichorus[19] mixed chorus Hugo Holle's madrigal singers


As ultimately published by Brecht, the eleven scenes are: The numbers in the score:
  1. Report on the flight
  2. The crash
  3. Investigation into whether humans help their kind
  4. Denial of help
  5. Council
  6. Contemplation of death
  7. Reading of the commentary
  8. The examination
  9. Fame & expropriation
  10. Ostracism
  11. Consent
  1. Report on the flight
  2. 1st investigation into whether humans help their kind
  3. The chorus addresses the fallen
  4. Contemplation of death (Film)
  5. Reading of the commentary
  6. 2nd investigation into whether humans help their kind (Clowns)
  7. Examination

The relation between these and the Lehrstück 'fragment' is not as straightforward as the table suggests. The first two are a simple splitting of Hindemith's #1, whereas Brecht's #3 is a merging of the original first and second investigations.


  1. Brecht (1997, 22)
  2. Willett (1967, 35) and (1997, 22, 326).
  3. Willett (1997, 325).
  4. Schott Music website, accessed 21 January 2008. See also (German Wiki page on Valeska Gert.)
  5. Willett (1997, 330) and Mueller (1994)
  6. Willett (1997, 325–326) and (1964, 80)
  7. See Willett (1967, 134).
  8. Mueller (1994, 85).
  9. Schechter (1994, 75–76), Mueller (1994, 84–85), and Esslin (1960, 44).
  10. Müller (1995, 123–125).
  11. Mueller (1994, 84).
  12. Stephan (1982, xiv) and Willett (1967, 35).
  13. Skelton (1992).
  14. cited in Stephan 1982
  15. Hindemith spoke of writing "music with pedagogical or social tendencies: for amateurs, for children, for radio, mechanical instruments, etc." (Briefe, ed. D. Rexroth, Frankfurt, 1982, p.147)
  16. See Willett (1967, 128–130) for a description of Gemeinschaftsmusik and the related Gebrauchsmusik (or "applied music"), to which both the Baden-Baden festival in 1929 and the Neue Musik festival in 1930 were devoted.
  17. Quoted by Willett (1967, 134–5).
  18. Willett (1967, 35) and Skelton (1992).
  19. In BBLvE the amateur chorus is dropped but the "Chor der Gelehrter" designation is kept. This has led to theories that Breccht borrowed the "Learned chorus" from Schiller, e.g. Lee Baxandall: B.B.'s J. B. reprinted from the Tulane Drama Review with a translation of "The Baden Play for Learning" in Brecht ed. Erika Munk (Bantam, 1972)


  • Amadeus Almanac, accessed 30 October 2008
  • Brecht, Bertolt. 1964. Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic. Ed. and trans. John Willett. British edition. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-38800-X. USA edition. New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 0-8090-3100-0.
  • ---. 1997. Collected Plays: Three. Ed. John Willett. Bertolt Brecht: Plays, Poetry, Prose Ser. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-70460-2.
  • Esslin, Martin. 1960. Brecht: The Man and His Work. New York: Doubleday.
  • Hindemith, Paul. 1982. Briefe. Ed. D. Rexroth. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-596-22146-3. (Geoffrey Skelton has edited a selection in translation)
  • Müller, Heiner. 1995. Theatremachine. Ed. and trans. Marc von Henning. London and Boston: Faber. ISBN 0-571-17528-7.
  • Schechter, Joel. 1994. "Brecht's Clowns: Man is Man and After". In Thomson and Sacks (1994, 68–78).
  • Skelton, Geoffrey. 1992. "Lehrstück". The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Ed. Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-73432-7
  • Stephan, Rudolf. 1982. Introduction. In Szenische Versuche (SW I,6). By Paul Hindemith, Rudolf Stephan, Bertolt Brecht, Marcellus Schiffer, and Kurt Weill. Mainz: Schott.
  • Thomson, Peter and Glendyr Sacks, eds. 1994. The Cambridge Companion to Brecht. Cambridge Companions to Literature Ser. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-41446-6.
  • Willett, John. 1967. The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects. Third rev. ed. London: Methuen, 1977. ISBN 0-413-34360-X.
  • ---. 1997. Editorial Notes. In Brecht (1997, 330–332).
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