Johann Nepomuk Eduard Ambrosius Nestroy was born on December 7, 1801, in Vienna. His father immigrated to Vienna from Silesia and became a successful trial lawyer who intended the same career for his son. Nestroy’s mother, the daughter of a well-to-do Viennese commercial inspector, died of consumption at a relatively young age. During Nestroy’s adolescence, the family’s prosperity vanished quickly, and the wheel of fortune that sends Nestroy’s characters up and down with such unpredictable regularity tumbled Nestroy himself from a secure childhood into growing poverty hidden under the pretense of a life unchanged. Instead of the law, Nestroy pursued a career in the opera, making a successful debut in Vienna as Sarastro in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (1791; The Magic Flute). After a year, he went as an opera singer to Amsterdam, Brünn, and finally to Graz for a more permanent engagement. He married, but his wife, Maria Philippine, with whom he had a son, left him after a short time. In Graz, he then met the actress Marie Weiler, whom he could not marry, because Austrian law prohibited a second marriage. They lived together, and he had two children by her.
In Graz, Nestroy switched over to the comic theater and endeared himself to audiences in 1831, in the role of Sansquartier in Louis Angely’s popular farce Sieben Mädchen in Uniform (seven girls in uniform; for his performance, the farce was...
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