Opera in 1 act based on the novelette by Sholem Aleichem.
BELYA, cook: Mezzo soprano
POOR JEWISH BOOK LENDER: Tenor
FRADL, servant girl: Soprano
KHAIM, servant in the neighboring house: Baritone
In the rich house of a Jewish lady in Odessa during the next-to-the-last turn of the century, Belya is busy in the kitchen preparing a festive dinner, for the engagement of the daughter of the house is at hand. The widowed cook complains about her hard work and her lonely life without a husband. The book lender appears with new books and Belya gives him something to eat and drink. While he is eating and drinking heartily, the cook confides to him the latest gossip about her employer. The book lender becomes bolder and more talkative with each glass he empties: first he praises his socialistic books, then he suggests to the well-off Belya that they found a capital collective together.
Khaim, the neighbours’ servant, joins in and begins complaining about his employers. Finally Fradl also appears in the kitchen with a funny song on her lips. Khaim, who has at first hidden from her, comes out and begins flirting intensively with the servant girl. Uninhibited celebrating and drinking begin and when the mood reaches its climax, Belya and the book lender decide to resign their services and become engaged. In high spirits, the book lender reads aloud particularly beautiful passages from the books he has brought along.
Stimulated by the happy love of the freshly engaged couple, Khaim suggests an eve-of–the-wedding party and then spontaneously turns to Fradl with a marriage proposal, which she finally accepts after initial resistance.
The lady of the house appears unexpectedly, interrupting the joyful singing and joking. Furious over the high-spirited tumult in her kitchen, she immediately throws all those present out of her house.