The Mozart literature has generally held that the first performance of Die Zauberflöte outside Vienna took place in Prague in the Nationaltheater (Nostitz Theater) on 25 Oct 1792 (see our entry for that date). Jerzy Got (1997) appears to have been the first scholar to cite a report in the Pressburger Zeitung of earlier performances in Lemberg on 21, 22, and 23 Sep 1792. However, Got summarizes the Pressburger Zeitung report rather than transcribing it, and he apparently did not realize that these performances are in fact the earliest known outside Vienna; Krzeszowiak (2009) seems to have been the first to recognize their priority in this regard. (On errors in Krzeszowiak’s transcription of the report, see the Notes below).
Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine; also Lvov [Russian], Lwów [Polish]) was at that time the capital of the Habsburg Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, a status it had attained after the First Partition of Poland in 1772. “Der gütige Monarch” mentioned in the report is Emperor Franz II, who had acceded to the Habsburg throne upon the death of his father Leopold II on 1 Mar 1792.
The Prague-born actor and theatrical impresario Franz Heinrich (František Jindřich) Bulla (1754–1819) brought his troupe to Lemberg in 1789 and subsequently established a German theater there, which he directed for many years (on Bulla see principally Got 1997, 35ff). It was Bulla who in 1789 masterminded the conversion into a theater of the disused Minoritenkirche in Lemberg. Got (1997, 54–55) notes that at the time of the Lemberg premiere of Die Zauberflöte on 21 Sep 1792, the city was overflowing with Poles who had fled the large Russian army that marched into Poland in May. Got surmises that it was the large number of Poles in Lemberg at that time and the relatively small number of German-speaking Austrians that led Bulla to issue a Polish translation of the opera’s libretto. Got (1997, 57) and Krzeszowiak (2009, 173) both reproduce facsimiles of the title page of the Polish libretto, which reads:
WE DWOCH AKTACH
Muzyka zaś od Pana Wolfganga
Amade Mozarta, Kapelmaystra i ak-
tualnego C. Kr. Kamer. Kompozytora
W MIESIACU WRZESNIU
The German libretto from the production also survives (see the listing here).
Got (1997, 56), citing the Lemberg journal Dziennik Patryotycznych Polityków (1792, no. 11, 173) and the Pressburger Zeitung (1792, no. 96, 30 Nov, 1074), notes a further performance of Die Zauberflöte in Lemberg on 16 Nov 1792, following a performance of Kotzebue’s Menschenhaß und Reue the preceding day. These performances took place at the request of Count Kazimierz Rzewuski, in honor of the visiting Polish general and patriot Tadeusz Kościuszko.
Got (1997, 54) also mentions a performance by Bulla’s company on 5 Mar 1792 of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, presumably in German, under the title Figaros Hochzeit. The performance was a benefit for Bulla’s wife, Edmunda (née Fiedler; see Got 1997, 35), a beloved actress in Bulla’s company, who is said in the report to have played the role of “Seraphin” (Cherubino) in the performance. According to Got, the marriage had long been on the rocks, and Madame Bulla had rejoined her husband’s company in Lemberg only in the preceding season, 1790/91. Got’s source is again a report in the Pressburger Zeitung (1792, no. 22, 17 Mar, 234) that he does not transcribe. The report reads:
Lemberg den 8. März. [...]
Wir wollten es nicht glauben, und
dennoch müssen wir es zu früh erfahren.
Unsere theure Schauspielerin Madame
Bulla verläßt uns eher als wirs ver=
hofften. Sie hat sich zu der Gesell=
schaft in Frankfurt am Mayn eingagirt.
Figaros Hochzeit eine Opera gab man
am 5. d. zu ihrem Besten. Madame
Bulla zeichnete sich in der Rolle des
Page Seraphin unvergleichlich aus. —
After her departure from Lemberg, Madame Bulla joined the theater in Frankfurt am Main; she ended her career at the Burgtheater in Vienna, where her daughter, the actress Sophie Koberwein (1783–1842), spent most of her career.