Zar und Zimmermann Synopsis

Tsar and Carpenter, or The Two Peters



ACT ONE
Peter the Great is working incognito as a shipyard carpenter (as he actually did) under the name of Peter Michaelov. A fellow Russian carpenter, an army deserter named Peter Ivanov, is in love with Marie, the niece of Burgomaster Van Bett. Informed by his ambassador, Lefort, of simmering rebellion in Moscow, the tsar resolves to return to Russia. Van Bett arrives, with instructions to locate a foreigner called Peter working in the shipyard. The interest of the English and French ambassadors, Syndham and Châteauneuf, convinces him of the foreign Peter's importance. His suspicions, and Syndham's, centre on Peter Ivanov. Châteauneuf, however, correctly identifies Peter Michaelov as the tsar.

ACT TWO
During a wedding celebration for the son of Widow Browe, owner of the shipyard, Châteauneuf (in disguise) concludes an alliance with the tsar, while Syndham (also in disguise) turns his attention on the bewildered Peter Ivanov. The arrival of a party of soldiers with instructions to detain all suspicious foreigners creates a general tumult in which the ambassadors throw off their disguises. Each identifies a different Peter as the tsar. Van Bett, after futile attempts to control the situation, looks on bewildered.

ACT THREE
While Van Bett prepares a musical homage to the wrong tsar, Peter Michaelov prepares to escape with the English passport Syndham has given to Ivanov. In return for their assistance in the temporary deception, the tsar gives Ivanov and Marie a letter that licenses their marriage and appoints Ivanov a general inspector of the imperial court. The tsar's ship leaves the harbour to general rejoicing. Van Bett remains confused.