The Grand Duke (or, The Statutory Duel)
curtain rises on the market square of Speisesaal where Ernest Dummkopf's
acting troupe is rehearsing for a production of the Greek tragedy Troilus
and Cressida. Beneath the theatrical veneer, a grand conspiracy is
afoot among the thespians to overthrow Rudolph, the Grand Duke. Ludwig,
the Company comedian, who is engaged to Lisa, the Company soubrette, admonishes
everyone that it is forbidden to allude to the conspiracy without first
exchanging the secret sign.
Ludwig, meanwhile, inadvertently betrays the conspiracy. A plan is conceived
whereby Ludwig and Ernest will fight a statutory duel and the winner will
denounce the loser to the Grand Duke. They draw cards and as Ludwig wins,
he goes off to tell the Grand Duke of the conspiracy.
Unaware of the intrigue surrounding him, Grand Duke Randolph prepares
for his wedding to the Baroness von Krakenfeldt. The Baroness reveals
that Randolph was betrothed in infancy to the Princess of Monte Carlo,
which poses a problem for both couples.
In the meantime, Ludwig approaches the Grand Duke in order to reveal
the plot and finds him greatly agitated. Ludwig hatches a plan in which
a statutory duel will be rigged and Rudolph will lose. Ludwig becomes
the new Grand Duke. However, Julia, the prominent "English" actress of
the troupe, points out that according to her contract she is required
to play the part of the Grand Duchess. Lisa is disconsolate, but the show
must go on and Ludwig is carried around the stage triumphantly.
As the curtain rises on Act II, Ludwig gloriously presents his plan to
manage the Grand Duchy. The Baroness arrives, announcing that Ludwig is
required to assume all of the late Duke's responsibilities, including
the Baroness herself, and everyone does off to celebrate the wedding of
Ludwig and the Baroness.
Meanwhile, the Prince and Princess of Monte Carlo arrive on the scene.
The Princess, finding that Ludwig has taken over all of the extinct Grand
Duke's responsibilities, happily asserts a prior claim to marriage over
the other Grand Duchesses. The company prepares for yet another wedding!
At this moment Rudolph and Ernest appear, denouncing Ludwig as an imposter.
A legal oversight is revealed and all is happily resolved.