George Overmeire's blog

Ressmann im Gespräch mit Hansgünther Heyme: "Oper Regina"

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.

"Dann bricht der Freiheit Morgen an" - Lortzing as a political composer.

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
Leipziger Universitätsverlag
ISBN 978-3-86583-812-4

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.

Lortzing's Regina in Pfalztheater Kaiserslautern.

Currently Lortzing's oper "Regina" is performed in the Pfalztheater Kaiserslautern theatre.
The work has a strange history, but I will not go over that here; others have done that better. But, since the first performance of the restored version in Gelsenkirchen in 1998, the popularity of the work is rising, which is a good thing, because Lortzing's fame as a composer of popular, "volkstümlich" Spieloper is declining. "Regina" is putting him back in the spotlight as a composer of more serious music.

Although I still think that Lortzing's forte was more in the field of comic opera, IMHO. :-)

Last year Regina was performed in Munich, but only as a concert. A recording on CD of this performance can be ordered here, but you can listen to the Finale at YouTube, music only.

Since the work has been restored, there must have been a corrupt version too! It is not the place here to talk about the how's, the why's and the howmany's, but the most infamous of these versions is the arrangement by Adolphe l'Arronge and Richard Kleinmichel, who made a complete different story (and, in fact, almost a complete different opera) of it, to adjust the opera to the political situation of Aronge's time.

It was performed in Berlin on March, 21st in 1899. The arrangement was criticized, especially in the journal "Ulk", as you can see on this caricature:

Translation: Lortzing: for Heaven's sake, what are you doing with my [opera] Regina?
L'Arronge: it is only a little blood-letting, you can see though what I scrape off of her.

Just to show a little of the way L'Arronge treated Lortzing's work: The finale, in the original music consisting of the festive music Lortzing recycled from his own "Caramo, oder das Fischerstechen", is now replaced by the so called "Yorckscher Marsch", originally written by Ludwig van Beethoven. Not a bad composer, although personally I don't like this kind of "Kapellmeister-Musik". However, you should judge for yourself:

Now, in Kaiserslautern, you can hear Regina as closely to Lortzing's original intentions as possible, although I'm not sure if Lortzing would have liked the horrible dress that Regina had to wear during the performance:

(picture by Hans-Jürgen Brehms-Seufert, from a review by Manfred Langer, September 22nd, 2013 at "Der Opernfreund". Since there is no permanent link to this review I've uploaded a pdf to my own server.)

Kruse's Lortzing Biography (1899) online, and more Lortzing Freebies!

George Richard Kruse is one of the first biographers of Lortzing and his work cannot be underestimated. He published Lortzing's letters in three editions and several short articles. Also he published a great deal of Lortzing's Operas with extensive, "in der Beschränkung zeigt sich nicht der Meister" prefaces and he wrote two biographies.
One of them, published in 1914, is republished on this website, but the older biography of 1899 is, IMO, better. Some illustrations and examples of music and a text less focused on the sentimental aspects of the "undervalued genius", exploited by his publishers, but more on the musical greatness of Lortzing, which should be, after all, what counts.

Now the good news is that this biography has been digitized recently by the Internet Archive, so you can read it online or download the pdf to your computer.

There is more: at the Internet Archive you find more Lortzing freebies: Opera scores with some misspellings (e.g. "bauberoper" "for "zauberoper", but who cares), the French version of "Die beiden Schützen" (Les Méprises) and the libretto of "Zar und Zimmermann" (you can also find the piano score) published by Wittmann - with a very good preface. (Wittmann's Lortzing biography is to be published on this website, currently work in progress).

Kruse's publication of Lortzing's letters (though surpassed now by I. Capelle's out-of-print publication) are here and here.

Finally: piano scores of Lortzing's most popular operas are at the International Music Score Library Project.

Abschied - LoWV 73.

A small and rather unknown piece for male choir by Lortzing found online! On June, 12th 1848 Lortzing sent a letter to the editor of the "Illustrirte Zeitung" in Leipzig, and offered this "trifle" for publication:

Anbei eine Kleinigkeit für Männerchor – gut vorgetragen – macht sichs vielleicht. Ich erlaube mir jedoch die Bemerkung, daß die kleine Komposition Ihrerseits nur für die Illustrierte Zeitung und den Kalender zu benutzen ist. - Albert Lortzing - Sämtliche Briefe, Historisch-kritische Ausgabe, I. Capelle, VN318)

In was only published in 1848, in the "Illustrierter Kalender: Jahrbuch d. Ereignisse, Bestrebungen u. Fortschritte im Völkerleben u. im Gebiete d. Wissenschaften, Künste u. Gewerbe. Leipzig : Weber, 1848".

(click the image for the original or here for the pdf).
The poem is from J.N. Vogl's "Lyrische Blätter", Vienna 1836 pages 76-77.

A correction of my post on "Cheristanens Denkstein".

I was very enthousiastic about the book "Die Pokornys" by Oskar Pausch and I wrote about it, mainly because the alleged discovery of two unknown Lortzing pieces.
Last week I received an e-mail by Irmlind Capelle, the world's most acknowledged expert on Lortzing, who compiled the catalogue of Lortzings works - "Lortzing Werkverzeichnis" (1994, ISBN 3-89564-003-4).
While doing her research for this book, she had the manuscripts of "Cheristanens Denkstein" and the "Türkischer Marsch" examined and concluded that the handwriting was clearly not by Lortzing, which was earlier also mentioned by Georg Richard Kruse, another expert on Lortzing's life and works. Because of this, and because a performance of the music is mentioned nowhere, the authorship of Lortzing is ruled out.
Because Ms. Capelle mentioned the piece (and her conclusions) in the preface of her work (pp 7-8), I think it is rather disputable that Pausch boasts on page 106 of his book:

Gleich das erste abgegebene Stück, eine Bühnenmusik zu Cheristanens Denkstein mit unterlegtem Text, (...), dazu ein türkischer Marsch sind bisher als Werke Gustav Albert Lortzings unbekannt geblieben und scheinen in keinem Werkverzeichnis auf.

There is simply just one Lortzing-Werkverzeichnis and that is the one I mentioned above. So, Pausch obviously didn't check this book. The pieces are definitely not unknown, and just don't appear in the catalogue, because according to Ms. Capelle they are not works by Lortzing.
Unfortunately, I also have to blame myself, I didn't check it either, which is a shame, because my books on Lortzing are always within reach.
So, the big question that remains is: can I trust the rest of Pausch's book? Because it was a very good read with lots of information. But that doesn't help you much when the information is wrong. However, I can still recommend the book to anyone who is interested in the musical theatre of the (early) nineteenth century. But with the caveat: check the references!

Undine in Leipzig

Die Hochschule für Musik in Leipzig spielt Lortzings "Undine" in einer Studioproduktion mit Klavierbegleitung. Inszenierung/Ausstattung und Textfassung: Matthias Oldag.

Freitag, 07.12.2012, 19.30 Uhr, Dittrichring 21, Großer Probesaal, Raum -1.33
Samstag, 08.12.2012, 15 Uhr, Dittrichring 21, Großer Probesaal, Raum -1.33
Sonntag, 09.12.2012, 15 Uhr, Dittrichring 21, Großer Probesaal, Raum -1.33
Montag, 10.12.2012, 19.30 Uhr, Dittrichring 21, Großer Probesaal, Raum -1.33
Dienstag, 11.12.2012, 19.30 Uhr, Dittrichring 21, Großer Probesaal, Raum -1.33

"Cheristanens Denkstein" - an unknown piece by Lortzing from his Viennese Period.

Recently I've been reading Oskar Pausch's great book "Die Pokornys - ein Beitrag zur Mitteleuropäischen Theatergeschichte "des 19. Jahrhunderts".

I bought the book mainly because Lortzing had worked briefly with Franz Pokorny during his Viennese period (1846 - 1848), and I was hoping to find some new sparks of information.
Pausch didn't let me down, when I opened the book for the very first time at a randomly chosen page, it appeared to be page 105, where a reprint is shown of Lortzing's manuscript of the beginning of Cheristanens Denkstein, Mus. Hs. 33.747

Obviously it is the stage music for the play "Der Verschwender" by F. Raimund. It is dated 1848 and has an evelope with the following description:

Musik zu dem Mährchen Cheristanens Denkstein von Albert Lortzing. Original-Partitur (unvollendet). Von diesem noch unvollendeten Werke ist keine Abschrift vorhanden. N.B. Der andere Theil diese Werkes befindet sich in der Autografen-Sam[m]lung des Herrn Kappelmeister [!] Adolf Müller

The composition , until 2011 unknown and not mentioned in any catalogue of Lortzing's works, was found in the Pokorny-Archive, that contains also a score of a "Türkischer Marsch" from 1847 by Lortzing (Mus.Hs. 33.748) and works by other composers. The list of manuscripts in this archive with comments by Günter Brosch is shown here; Lortzing is at number 7:

A rare find in a german antiquarian bookshop.

Last summer I visited Dresden and as always I looked forward to visiting some antiquarian bookshops; especialy the "Dresdener Antiquariat", because it has a lot of out-of-print books and musical scores. This time I was very lucky; not only did I find (at last!) a piano score of Lortzing's "Der Wildschütz" (The Poacher), that is unacceptably expensive in The Netherlands (where I live), but my best catch was the little booklet "Der deutschen Jugend gilt mein Lied" for only € 4!

That is why I keep lugging antiquarian bookshops: despite the internet, abebooks and e-readers there are still some very rare gems that nobody else would buy, but that are valuable to me!
As was printed on the front page:

Über Leben und Wirken von Albert Lortzing.
Material zur Gestaltung von Heimabenden in den Gruppen der Freien Deutschen Jugend.
Zusammengestellt und geschrieben von Manfred Jordan.
Herausgegeven vom Zentralrat der Freien Deutschen Jugend- Abteilung Kultur

It is not "just" a Lortzing biography. And, by the way: on the risk of blowing my own horn, you won't find anything on Lortzing that isn't already mentioned on this website. It was written to be used during the meetings of the Free German Youth, also known as the FDJ (German: Freie Deutsche Jugend), the official communist youth movement of the German Democratic Republic and the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.
What's in it? "Einleitung des Gruppenleiters", "Sprecher", "Wir erzählen", "Überleitung", "Wir lesen vor"; it reminded me of my youth, when my parents bought me a children's prayer book for the catholic mass, to be able to follow the - latin - mass as a child. Also: "Wir spielen oder lesen mit verteilten Rollen" (role-playing avant-la-lettre) and - best of all - concerted music making and singing of Lortzing's music - isn't that what's still happening in church? (well...the congregational singing, they're not singing music by Lortzing in church, of course)
Except that there are some pieces of music in this booklet that you'll find nowhere else: on page 43 the "Neues Osterlied" and on page 56 the "Deutsches Studentenlied", respectively LOWV 80 nrs 2 and 1. "Vier Chöre" for male choir, written during the revolution of March 1848 in Vienna. It has been printed in July 1848, but then it fell into oblivion. Okay, the orchestral parts are still missing (you can always look for them at the Library of the Lortzing archive in Detmold). Furthermore, on page 63, "Der deutschen Jugend gilt mein Lied" (LOWV 95,4), although deliberately renamed as "Es geht der Weg durch Nacht zum Licht" and in a lower key than the original.
It is really a collector's item and I'm proud to possess it. However, for all of you interested in Lortzing (or probably in the history of socialism/communism in the German Democratic Republic) I offer you a pdf of the booklet; you can download it here.

Salamander - An "Undine"- novel.

Jürgen Lodemann is probably even more a fan of Albert Lortzing than I am. In 1962 he wrote his dissertation "Deutsche Bürgerlichkeit. Lortzing und seine Spielopern" on Lortzings Spielopern. In 2001, a Lortzing memorial year, he published "Lortzing, Gaukler und Musiker", and last year he published his novel "Salamander - a novel".

It is not just a novel. Superficially read, it is a detective, about a crime passionel. If you are shallow enough to keep it at that level, you might still have many enjoyable hours of reading, but of course you deprive yourself of the satisfaction of a more deeper understanding (and you deprive the author of his well-earned respect as well). There is a second level - it is a love story of the German city Freiburg and of Baden, one of the sixteen states of Germany. Freiburg is beautifully depicted and I wish my next vacation could have Freiburg as a destination.
But there is even more; Lortzing's opera's Undine and Regina are involved in the story-line. Not only because the female protagonist is called Undine, it also because a lot of the action in the story is centered around the rehearsals and a performance of Regina, merged with some information on the opera Undine. This is the third level of the novel: unravelling the "who dunnit", you stumble on lots of informaton, not only about Lortzing's opera's, but also on Goethe, culture, literature, politics and the culture of Islam. Did I forget something? Definitely, but it is just to show the inexhaustible richness of the novel when it comes to these ideas.
Finally, on the fourth level, it is a book about philosophy, humanity and tolerance. Lodemann's interpretation of how the two opera's are compatible in the way they reflect Lortzing's worldview is transposed to the problems of our time - which shows that Lortzing might have lived and died two hundred years ago, in an era without computers or cell phones (Lodemann writes of our own time as "Sankt Digitalien"), but that his work and his ideas are still valid. And, of course, that we misunderstand and underestimate Lortzing by thinking of him "just" as a composer of comic Spieloper.
It's a story about freedom, but also about "Mut zur Anderswelt". "Die Natur des Mannes als Naturkatastrophe".

So wisse, dass in allen Elementen
es Wesen gibt, die aussehn fast wie ihr;
in Feuers Flammen spielen Salamander,
die Gnomen hausen in der Erde Tiefen,
in Äthers Blau und in den Strömen lebet
der Geister viel verbreitetes Geschlecht.

Salamander shows that Opera, Music,Art is there to create emotion - feelings and humanism. A must-read.

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