The 19th century was a period of national reawakening in the Slovenian Lands. Leading intellectuals of the era were beginning to prove that the Slovenian language could stand on its own against German. This vibrant period also saw the creation of an influential Slovenian-language stage play with a revolutionary message.
This Happy Day or Matiček’s Wedding was the work of Anton Tomaž Linhart, born in 1756. A talented writer, poet, and playwright, Linhart was also a patriot who promoted the use of the Slovenian language in civic and cultural life. Shortly after writing the first Slovenian play, Županova Micka, he opted to adapt a play with a more revolutionary sensibility.
He adapted This Mad Day or Figaro’s Wedding for a Slovenian audience. The original French play was the work of Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, who was known for mocking the status quo.
Linhart published his adaptation in 1790. He changed the setting to the Gorenjska (Upper Carniola) region, made the characters Slovenian, and incorporated various local traditions. What he did not change was the revolutionary, frequently satirical tone of Beaumarchais’ original. It contains satire of bureaucracy as well as pointed barbs against the conservative aristocracy who resented the rights that were granted to commoners at the time.
The trial of Matiček, the central character, is a major plot point. Significantly, Matiček demands to be tried in Slovenian instead of German. Linguistic equality was a major issue of the time, and Linhart used the incident to argue that Slovenian should be granted full equality with German in the Slovenian Lands.
The authorities in Vienna saw this as a threat. Even though they allowed the publication of the play, they prevented it from being staged. Linhart was unable to evade the ban, and it wasn’t until the nationalist revolutions of 1848 that his play was officially allowed to be staged in the Slovenian Lands.
Linhart did not live to see the premiere; he died in 1795. However, his wish of seeing the Slovenian language as an equal on the stage was eventually realized. His work also marked the start of a vibrant theater tradition, which lives on in Slovenia more than two centuries after his death.