Submitted by George Overmeire on Fri, 07/10/2009 - 19:12
"Eine schlanke Mittelfigur mit dunkellockigem Haar, freundlich schönem Angesichte; seine hübschen dunklen Augen waren von gutmütig schelmischen Ausdruck, heiter lebendig; seine ganze Erscheinung, sein ganzes Wesen voll Frohsinn und Laune, gewandt und gefällig". - Philipp Düringer: "Albert Lortzing, sein Leben und Wirken". Leipzig 1851.
Albert Lortzing, opera-composer, librettist and jack-of-all-trades in theatre and opera, was born into a theatrical family. He had a sure sense for theatrical effectiveness and devoted himself almost entirely to comic opera.
His most famous works are "Zar und Zimmermann" (1837) and "Der Wildschütz" (1842),both Singspiele, but he also composed a romantic opera, "Undine" (1845) and a revolutionary opera, "Regina" (1848).
Himself influenced by W.A. Mozart, Lortzing was at the parting of the ways to Richard Wagner (Lortzing's "Hans Sachs" probably influenced Wagner's "Die Meistersinger") and to Johann Strauss II.
Submitted by George Overmeire on Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:52
Albert Lortzing died on the 21st of January 1851 in Berlin. Personally I prefer to celebrate his birthday on 23 October, but this year I have a special reason to give some attention to his dying day and write this little post.
Bert Hagels, who helped me in 2009 by adding a substantial part to this website, found a short obituary of Lortzing in the English music journal "The Musical World", from February 1st, 1851 and sent it to me.
It is interesting that an English magazine wrote something about Lortzing, who was probably a "too German" composer to be esteemed in other countries. Remarkable are the small inaccuracies, like Lortzing's date of birth, (23d of September 1803, instead of 23d of October 1801), the exact date of death (23d of January, instead of 21st), the strange rendering of the titles of Lortzing's operas ("Der Wildschütz", generally translated as "The Poacher" is here "the Dierstalker") and these two sentences:
Besides these works he composed several vaudevilles, songs, and morceaux for flute and piano. On both instruments he excelled as a performer. (emphasis by me - GO)
No morceaux for flute and piano are mentioned, probably because there are none! And although Lortzing without a doubt played the piano, he most likely didn't excel as a performer.
Now, actually there is also another English obituary, from "The Illustrated London News" of March 29, 1851, that I found in 2012 on eBay as part of a set of two pages devoted to commerce and corn exchange. Without buying the originals I saved the images to my computer, to let them wait for an opportunity to be used.
The time has come :-)
In this obituary you'll also find the inaccuracy of Lortzing's date of birth, 1803 instead of 1801, but this is compensated by incorporating Lortzing in the multitude of geniuses!
Lortzing's passing from life was attended by circumstances by no means uncommon in the fortunes of men of genius: he died poor, and left his family a public subscription.
De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est - Of the dead nothing but good is to be said, but, just like Lortzing wasn't a virtuoso as a piano player, he probably wasn't a genius - IMO.
I prefer to think about Lortzing as a very capable and interesting composer of Spieloper, and a trailblazer in the history of comic opera, rather than to stress his misfortune as a pitiful, under-appreciated and exploited genius.
Submitted by George Overmeire on Mon, 12/29/2014 - 14:27
The Eduard-von-Winterstein-Theater Annaberg-Buchholz had last month an interesting surprise to offer for Lortzing fans: the world premier of "Andreas Hofer". This work, written as one of four "Liederspiele" in 1832 during Lortzing's "Lehrjahre" in Detmold (the other plays were "Der Pole und sein Kind", "Szenen aus Mozarts Leben" and "Der Weihnachtsabend"), has never before been performed, because of censorship in the Biedermeier period.
The historical Andreas Hofer was the leader of the Tyrolean Rebellion against the French and Bavarian occupation in 1809. It is difficult for us to imagine why this play - that is set in the Passeiertal (Passeier Valley), after the Treaty of Schönbrunn of 14th October 1809 (also known as: Treaty of Vienna) but before the decisive third Battle of Bergisel (1 November 1809) - was forbidden, as it is difficult to imagine what the meaning of this piece (as well as of "Der Weihnachtsabend", that was double-billed with "Andreas Hofer") can be to us, as a 21st-century audience. Because the story is not that interesting and the music is mostly compiled from existing music of other composers, especially Mozart.
In the program booklet Annelen Hasselwander writes that borrowing existing music was an important feature for Lortzings contemporary audience, to have a kind of "Wunschkonzert", a "music by request". This may be true, but I think that rewriting existing music was also an important method of learning how to compose, which is why I call Lortzing's Detmold period his "Lehrjahre".
When the Erzgebirgische Theater writes on its website
Beide Werke mischen einen spannenden historischen oder politischen Stoff mit den Ingredenzien des biedermeierlichen Familienlebens, zwischen denen der Dichterkomponist arbeitete und die auch noch später in all seinen großen Erfolgsstücken nachzuschmecken sein werden.
I agree with the second part of this statement, that Lortzing developed here his later style that would make him famous.
A performance of "Andreas Hofer", along with "Der Weihnachtsabend", is thus important for us only from a historical point of view, which is why the website of the Erzgebirgische Theater-und Orchester GmbH proudly announced it as an "Ausgrabung", a "digging up".
Not only was this the world premier of "Andreas Hofer", it is also very unlikely that this work will ever be performed again. So, when I heard about these performances I had to attend them, even though the voyage from The Netherlands, where I live, to Annaberg-Buchholz was much more expensive than the tickets! (In fact: I combined my visit to the theatre with a short holiday in the "Erzgebirge", the Ore Mountains.)
|Your reporter in the Winterstein theatre, before the beginning of the performance. :-)
So, having expressed my acknowledgement to Ingolf Huhn and his team for digging up these two works and acknowledge that - alas! - in the Netherlands it is unimaginable that compatible works from our Dutch cultural heritage are being restored, I think there also must be some room for criticism.
Musically the performance had some shortcomings. Especially there were too many places where the singers and the orchestra didn't perform in the same tempo. Some singers, especially the female singers, were quite good when singing solo, but during the ensemble-singing the differences in quality and color between the voices became distinct. This reached rock-bottom at the end of "Andreas Hofer", when the tenor who had to start with the "Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser" sang out way too loud, which gave the performance a bit of an amateurish character.
Both works were staged in the Biedermeier setting in which they were written in 1832. As far as I could see no personal "interpretation" was added to the plays to transpose the stories to our 21st-century values. For me, being a musicologist with an interest in Lortzings works, this is fine of course, but I wonder if the plays were entertaining enough for the rest of the audience, people of flesh and blood like me, but not necessarily Lortzing aficionado's.
Regarding the conception of Ingolf Huhn in the "Weihnachtsabend" I can only point to the tryst between Suschen, Gottlieb and later cousin Michel, that was staged as a "Kasperliade"-like puppet show (without making clear, at least to me, who was pulling the strings), and the door handles, that were too high placed. The meaning of this escaped me, but at least I do have something to ponder on.
The dialogues in "Der Weihnachtsabend" were rather long; I don't think Huhn used his red pencil when working on the play. And again: you can see this as a plus from the historical point of view, but knowing that Lortzing knew how to keep his audience's attention (the study by Hellmuth Laue, "Die operndichtung Lortzings: Quellen und umwelt. Verhältnis zur romantik und zu Wagner" makes clear that Lortzing had no problems with cutting away redundant dialogues and even entire roles from the plays that served him as a model for his operas), you may wonder if Lortzing himself, if he were still around with us, would have the play performed now as he wrote it in 1832.
"Andreas Hofer" was a more interesting play, the dialogues were shorter and the story made more sense to me. Interesting was the scene decoration, that was meant to represent the Tyrolean mountains: just two-dimensional mountain-shaped boards on which little houses and some vegetation were painted. Very effective. The background of the set was economically the same as the room where "Der Weihnachtsabend" was played before the coffee break. To me this seemed a bit penny-pinching, but on the other hand, it is probably exactly what makes a performance like this possible.
©Foto: Dirk Rueckschloss/Eduard-von-Winterstein Theater, via
Alpenglühen im Biedermeier-Wohnzimmer.
On this picture you can see the stage setting of "Andreas Hofer", but there is also another interesting feature, of which I am not sure if it is only my interpretation: Andreas Hofer is, of course, sitting in the center, but the character most on the left seems, as a cameo appearance, to be disguised as Robert Blum, Lortzings friend and the one who, according to the Lortzing-literature, is represented by Richard in "Regina" (personally, I do nót agree with this statement, but on that discussion I will write another essay later!).
Supposed it was intentional, Ingolf Huhn points with this to the "political" Lortzing and creates a connection between "Andreas Hofer" and "Regina", both Lortzing's most politically engaged operas, as is also shown by the often quoted lyric "dann bricht der Freiheit Morgen an", that appears in both works.
It is no coincidence that, with the fading of Lortzings popularity as a composer of "comic" operas, and the rise of the popularity of Lortzings "Regina", Lortzings "serious" opera, "Andreas Hofer", as a precursor of Regina has been digged up. Probably a little bit wiping off the dust could preserve the piece from vanishing back into the museum.
Submitted by George Overmeire on Mon, 10/06/2014 - 12:55
My post on the Frisian “In liet fen Radbod” - a parody on Lortzing's "Zarenlied" - made me realize that more songs were written on this remarkable popular - volkstümlich - melody.
So on the following pages I've tried to collect as much parodies of the Zarenlied as I was able to find.
Due to the character of the internet, it is always possible that this collection will grow, so stay tuned to this page for updates.
If you know of a Zarenlied-parody not mentioned on this website, please, let me know.
Submitted by George Overmeire on Mon, 09/29/2014 - 14:10
In “Frysk lieteboek. In gearjefte, de Friezen oanbean. Op 'e nij biwirke en neigien fen T.E. Halbertsma en W. Faber (...)” I found, among other songs with Frisian lyrics on popular works by classical composers as No. 53 the song “In liet fen Radbod” - "A Song of Radbod". Although there is no indication of the original melody in the catalogue of the National Library of The Netherlands or in the table of contents of the song-book, the name of the composer “Lortzing” is mentioned in the 1930 edition of the book at page 118, where the song is printed. As was to be expected, the Frisian lyrics were parodied above Lortzing’s popular melody “Sonst spielt ich mit Zepter, mit Krone und Stern”, the "Zarenlied", from his 1837 Opera “Zar und Zimmermann” (Tsar and Carpenter), LoWV 38.
This melody is number 14 of Lortzing’s successful opera. The story of the opera is based on the historical fact of the short stay in the Dutch town of Saardam ("Zaandam") of the Russian Tsar Peter the Great who in 1697, disguised as Peter Michaelov, worked in a shipyard, where he was learning the trade of ship’s carpenter.
There has always been a lot of legend-building around this song. First of all, according to G.R. Kruse, Albert Lortzing (1899), page 54, the song was in the beginning subject to much criticism.
Auf der Probe sollte es, als für den Charakter Peters nicht passend, gestrichen, dann wegen Indisposition des Sängers in der Erstaufführung weggelassen worden sein.
Most explicitly the matter is discussed in the famous (but probably forged) interview J.C. Lobe had with Lortzing.
Ich hatte einiges gegen sein Zaarenlied auf dem Herzen, und lenkte das Gespräch darauf.
"Damit ist es mir sonderbar ergangen," bemerkte er. "In der Probe zu Zaar und Zimmerman schüttelte mancher der Herren im Orchester bedenklich den Kopf über dieses Lied, und endlich rieth mir Stegmeyer geradezu es wegzulassen, weil es - nichts machen werde. Ich stutzte. Die Leute meinen's gut mit dir, dachte ich, und sind doch Sachverständige. Schon wollte ich da Ding weglassen. Doch besann ich mich anders, und sagte: wir wollen's
doch mal wenigstens in der ersten Vorstellung damit probiren. Was thut's denn, wenn's durchfällt. Man kann's in diesem Falle später immer noch weglassen."
Und gerade dieses Lied gefiel am meisten, bemerkte ich.
"Ja es schlug durch, wie man zu sagen pflegt," versetzte Lortzing, "und ist wohl in 20.000 Exemplaren durch die Welt geflattert."
Later in the same interview, still talking about the "Zarenlied", Lobe asked if the sentimentality of the song was appropriate for the tsar:
In Bezug auf die Gedanken und Gefühle Peter's - -
"Ei," fiel er ein, - "kennen wir denn irgend einen Menschen so genau, um behaupten zu dürfen, diesen Gedanken und diese Empfindung kann er absolut in keinem Momente seines Lebens gehabt haben? Und zumal, wenn es sich um öffentliche Charaktere, Staatsmänner, Herrscher, Kaiser, Könige handelt! Was erfahren wir von ihnen?! Ihre politischen Thaten, die von dem Amt, nicht von dem Herzen dirigirt werden, dazu einige Anekdoten, flüchtige Züge, oft erfunden, oft verdreht, von Schmeichlern oder Feinden! (...)"Der Mensch soll noch geboren werden, der niemals eine weiche, wehmüthige stunde hätte. Selbst der verstockteste Bösewicht fühlt zuweilen sanfte Regungen. Warum soll ein Fürst wie Peter der Große in dessen seele zwar das Gemeine und Rohe, daneben aber auch das große und Erhabene wohnte, nicht einmal beim Rückblick in die goldene Jugendzeit durch den Contrast mit den laufenden Herrschersorgen, weich und wehmüthig gestimmt worden sein?
In this quote Lortzing defends himself whether the melody of the “Zarenlied” is fitting for an emperor.
Now, as may be clear from the Frisian "Liet fen Radbod”, not only was it fitting for the Russian Tsar to be in a sentimental mood, it was also fitting for Radbod (or Redbad), the king (or duke) of Frisia from c. 680 until his death in 719.
Below are the Frisian lyrics of the song, and a translation in Dutch provided by Auke de Haan en Ida Terluin:
Iens boarte ik as berntsje mei haedstêf en kroan,
Mei skild en mei swird, dat ik swaeide aloan;
Elts fleach op myn winken, hja troaiden my sa;
Blier tommele ik den op myn Heitsje wer ta.
Myn Ok”, sei er den, “koeze, honke, dou, dou,
Ho sillich, ho sillich, ljeaf berntsje, bistou,
Ho sillich, ho sillich, ljeaf berntsje, bistou!”
Eens speelde ik als kind met hoofdstaf en kroon,
Met schild en zwaard, dat ik telkens zwaaide
Ieder vloog op mijn wenken, ze stelden me zo tevreden;
Blij tuimelde ik dan weer naar mijn Vadertje toe.
Mijn Schat” zei hij dan, mijn lieve heerlijke duifduif.
Wat een zalig, wat een zalig lief kindje ben jij,
Wat een zalig, wat een zalig lief kindje ben jij!
Nou fier ik de haedstêf, nou draech ik de kroan,
Ik wrot for myn Fryslân by jountiid en moarn;
Ik wol it bihâlde for 't oerâlde ljocht,
Nin ien, dy't myn wyt, dy't myn bodzjen trochsjucht;
Swiid klaeid yn it poarper, hwet nju hab ik nou?
O sillich, o sillich, lyts berntsje, bistou,
O sillich, o sillich, lyts berntsje, bistou!
|Nu voer ik de hoofdstaf, nu draag ik de kroon
Ik zwoeg dag en nacht voor mijn Friesland
Ik wil het behouden voor het oeroude licht,
Niemand doorziet het doel van mijn geploeter;
Prachtig gekleed in purper, welk genoegen heb ik nu?
O zalig, o zalig lief kindje ben jij,
O zalig, o zalig lief kindje ben jij!
Is't skrippen iens oer, liif en holle to'n ein,
Ald – Starum set Radbod in preal-grêf oerein;
Tinkt Fryslân oan him? Och, de neiteam forjit:
De greatens fen de ierder is in stjer, dy't forsjit,
Alfader! Wrâlds fâder! Och, meitsj' my wer gau
In sillich, ynsillich, ljeaf berntsje fen Jo,
In sillich, ynsillich, ljeaf berntsje fen Jo!
|Is het harde werken voorbij, lijf en hoofd versleten,
Oud-Stavoren bouwt een praalgraf voor Radbod
Denkt Friesland aan hem? Ach, het nageslacht vergeet:
de grootsheid van aleer is als een ster die verschiet,
Almachtige Vader! Vader van de Wereld! Ach, maak mij weer gauw
Een zalig, inzalig lief kindje van U,
Een zalig, inzalig lief kindje van U!
And following are the original German lyrics of the "Zarenlied" (written by Lortzing's friend Philipp Reger, although Lortzing was responsible for the Chorus "O selig, o selig, ein Kind noch zu sein") compared to a translation into German of the Dutch translation of “In liet fen Radbod” - generated by the Google-translate machine, with some manual corrections by myself. From this you can see that the overall structure and meaning of the text is maintained, but transposed to Radbod's environment.
|Sonst spielt ich mit Zepter, mit Krone und Stern,
das Schwert schon als Kind, ach ich schwang es so gern.
Gespielen und Diener bedrohte mein Blick
froh kehrt ich zum Schoße des Vaters zurück
Und liebkosend sprach er: Lieb Knabe bist mein
O selig, o selig, ein Kind noch zu sein.
|Einmal habe ich als Kind mit Zepter und Krone gespielt,
Mit Schild und Schwert, habe ich immer herumgeschwenkt.
Jeder tanzte nach meiner Pfeife und machten mich so glücklich;
Froh, dass ich zurück stolperte zu meinem Vater.
"Mein Liebchen", sagte er dann, mein lieber schöne Taube.
Was für ein gesegnetes, was für ein süßes gesegnetes Kind bist du!
|Nun schmückt mich die Krone, nun trag ich den Stern
das Volk, meine Russen, beglückt ich so gern.
Ich führ sie zur Größe, ich führ sie zum Licht
mein väterlich Streben erkennen sie nicht.
Umhüllet von Purpur, nun steh ich allein:
O selig, o selig, ein Kind noch zu sein.
|Jetzt habe ich den Zepter, jetzt trage ich die Krone
Ich schuftete Tag und Nacht für mein Friesland
Ich will es behalten für das uralte Licht,
Niemand sieht den Zweck meiner Schufterei;
Wunderschön in Lila, welche Freude habe ich jetzt?
O selig, o selig Kindchen du bist!
|Und endet das Streben, und endet die Pein
so setzt man dem Kaiser ein Denkmal aus Stein
Ein Denkmal im Herzen erwirbt er sich kaum
denn irdische Größe erlischt wie ein Traum
Doch rufst du, Allgüt´ger: In Frieden geh ein
So werd ich beseligt dein Kind wieder sein.
|Wenn die harte Arbeit fertig ist, Körper und Kopf abgetragen,
dann baut Alt-Stavoren ein Mausoleum für Radbod
Denkt Friesland an ihn? Ah, der Nachwelt vergessen:
die ehemalige Größe ist wie ein Stern der erbleicht,
Allmächtige Vater! Vater der Welt! Oh, mach mich bald wieder
Ein seliges, glückseliges Kind der Liebe von Ihnen!
Sheet Music "In liet fen Radbod"
Submitted by George Overmeire on Wed, 05/14/2014 - 14:27
On 14 April 2014 I found a letter of Albert Lortzing, that he wrote on 2 february 1841, in the National Library of The Netherlands.
The letter is just registered in the catalogue, but, probably due to the fact that Lortzing is not very well known in The Netherlands, or for the reason that it is archived in a collection of manuscripts that belonged to the German-Dutch composer Gustav Adolph Heinze (1820-1904), has remained unnoticed up to now by Lortzing-scholars.
In the catalogue the addressee is indicated as "N.N.", but it was not difficult to find out that the letter (actually more a note) was addressed to Henriëtte Brüning-Peuckert, at the time of the letter a colleague of Lortzing and later the spouse of Heinze.
I've written a more extensive paper on this letter; I published it here or you can find it attached to this blogpost.
Submitted by George Overmeire on Sun, 04/27/2014 - 13:30
I've been thinking for a long time about a connection between Albert Lortzing and Johann Nestroy.
There are a lot of similarities (e.g. year of birth), although Nestroy didn't write his own music.
In the "Nestroyana" 26 (2006), pg. 125-26 (I wish the Albert Lortzing Gesellschaft had such a great journal), Jürgen Hein kickstarted further investigations with an article "Albert Lortzing und Johann Nestroy. Eine Anregung". He already skimmed the subject concerning the written testimonies, but there must be more to explore.
Before I embark on that adventure - which is definitely my intention for the future - I stumbled on a weird coincidence this week. At the website of Europeana, a mère a boire for european culture as is being conserved in european museums, I found the advertising poster for a performance of "Rolands Knappen"
Actually, I knew this poster, because as a member of the Albert Lortzing Gesellschaft it had already been given to me as a postcard to invite me for the performance of this work at the Mittelsächsischen Theater Freiberg und Döbeln. I wasn't able to attend - due to the distance from my home to the theatres.
Now, having done some research about Nestroy and some thinking about a Lortzing-Nestroy connection, I saw what I didn't see in 2005 - and what obviously wasn't noticed also by the person who had to describe the picture for the website:
(...)Bildmitte wird von einem Ausschnitt einer Grafik bestimmt: drei Männer mit Wanderrucksack in Unterhaltungsgestik, farbig, (...)
Of course this is a picture of a scene from Nestroy's "Der böse Geist Lumpazivagabundus", taken from the Wiener Theaterzeitung, after Johann Christian Schoellerand. The "drei Männer mit Wanderrucksack in Unterhaltungsgestik" are Johann Nestroy, Wenzel Scholz and Carl Carl; not the least in theatrical history :-)
Of course I informed the Leipzig Museum of this, and, after thanking me for my help, they promised me to upgrade their information.
But, finding the similarity between the two images triggered an interesting thought: did the designer of this poster probably do more than just copy-pasting a public domain-picture and organizing the text around the image? Is there perhaps also a "Rolands Knappen - Lumpazivagabundus"-connection?
There is, and - unfortunately for me - it has already brought up by Christoph Nieder, who wrote in the same Nestroyana volume 26 (2006) pgs 48-61, an essay about Lortzing's "Rolands Knappen" - "Eine Wiener Zauberoper von Albert Lortzing".
Except "Lumpazivagabundus" Nieder brings also up some other influences, like Raimund's "Barometermacher", "Mädchen aus der Feenwelt" and "Alpenkönig".
Nieder was involved as a dramaturg by the performance of Rolands Knappen in 2005, so this perhaps explains the origin of the idea of the picture.
Submitted by George Overmeire on Mon, 04/07/2014 - 17:24
Performed at the National Opera Theatre of Tirana, 26 march 2013. Featuring Erlind Zeraliu as Robert Eriona Gjyzeli as Arianna.
Submitted by George Overmeire on Wed, 12/18/2013 - 14:25
Heyme erläutert in dem TV-Gespräch sein Regiekonzept, Lortzing unverfälscht auf die Opernbühne zu bringen. Die Opernproduktion erfolgte in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Pfalztheater in Kaiserslautern. Deutsche Demokratiegeschichte als große Oper, ein TV-Gespräch über eine außergewöhnliche Inszenierung.
Submitted by George Overmeire on Sat, 11/30/2013 - 16:42
A new book on Lortzing has been published last month:
Eva Marie Schnelle: "Dann bricht der Freiheit Morgen an". Die Opern Albert Lortzings in ihrem verfassungsgeschichtlichen Kontext.
Schriftenreihe der Albert-Lortzing-Gesellschaft, Band 1
It is about Lortzing as a political composer. Which is not a new perspective: although we know Lortzing mainly as a composer of biedermeier "Singspiele", it has always been known that Lortzing also had strong opinions on politics, like his friend Robert Blum. But, of course, due to the political climate of his days, he had to be very careful how he expressed his ideas.
Is it a coincidence that the title of this little book is almost the same as Jürgen Lodemann's Essay „Nun kommt der Freiheit großer Morgen“?. No, because it is a quote from "Andreas Hofer" ánd from the final scene of "Regina", both Lortzing's most politically engaged operas, when I exclude "Der Pole und sein Kind" for now.
And, is it a coincidence that the latest issue of the "Nestroyana", the journal of the international Nestroy-Gesellschaft, also has some articles about censorship in the pre-March era? It must be in the air, or the Zeitgeist, to rehabilitate the Biedermeier period, which was not a dull, narrow-minded era at all, but showed that people were striving for as much freedom as they could get in an age of censorship and political oppression! And, you can find that out by "close-reading" the works of Lortzing (and his Viennese counterpart, Nestroy), who after all, was his own librettist.
So, I can only recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Lortzing and of course to anyone who wants to know more about politics in the Vormärz.
But most of all I recommend this book strongly to those of you who still think of Lortzing as a minor composer (why are you still reading this website? - you must be looking for something!), just aiming for ingratiating himself with his audience.