“Don Giovanni” and “Figaro” in Bonn; the Keilholz sisters
Posted: Wed, 28 Aug 2019
We have just added three new documents to our site, and we are pleased to welcome Steven Whiting as a guest contributor.
This remarkable positive review of the Bonn premiere of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (in a German adaptation) appeared in the short-lived French-language newspaper Gazette de Bonn. The review was first published in the scholarly literature in Schiedermair’s Der junge Beethoven in 1925, but it is not in Dokumente or Neue Folge. In the commentary, Dexter Edge and Steven Whiting discuss the context of the Bonn premiere of Don Giovanni, which was given by the recently established Nationaltheater at the electoral court, and they investigate the cast of the production.
The date of the Bonn premiere of Die Hochzeit des Figaro (a German adaptation of Le nozze di Figaro) is not directly documented and has remained unknown up to now. However, it is possible to determine the date with near certainty by reconstructing the performance calendar of the Bonn theater for the season running from 13 Oct 1789 to 23 Feb 1790. Dexter Edge and Steven Whiting show that the Bonn premiere of Figaro almost certainly took place on Sat, 14 Nov 1789. The reconstructed calendar also pinpoints the likely dates of the three other performances of Figaro in Bonn that season and all three performances of Don Giovanni. Edge and Whiting also investigate the cast of the Bonn Figaro.
One of the great singing actresses on the German-language stage in the late eighteenth century and the first decade of the nineteenth was Christiane Keilholz, who sang Susanna in the Mannheim premiere of Die Hochzeit des Figaro (with her sister Dorothea as Cherubino) on 24 Oct 1790, probably under Mozart’s direction. Christiane was arguably one of the most important Mozart sopranos of her generation—the roles of Konstanze and Donna Anna (which she sang as part of her extended tryouts in Mannheim in 1790), and (later) Queen of the Night remained staples of her repertoire throughout her career, and she and her husband Carl Haßloch mounted the first German-language production of Mozart’s Idomeneo, in Kassel in 1802. She was perhaps unique on the German-language stage at that time in being simultaneously one of the best sopranos in opera and one of the best actresses in the spoken theater, particularly in tragedy and serious roles: she appeared to great acclaim in plays by Schiller, Kotzebue, Iffland, and even Shakespeare, among many others. Her acting and singing are said to have been so physically and emotionally expressive that she often brought audiences to tears. Yet Christiane Keilholz has remained little known to modern scholars, in part because her career was peripatetic and documentary sources are fragmented and widely scattered.
Dexter Edge traces the careers of Christiane Keilholz and her sister, beginning in the 1770s in Hamburg—where Christiane began taking leading operatic roles while still in her mid teens. He follows them through their engagements with the theaters in Bonn and Mannheim in the years 1789–1792, then Amsterdam and Kassel, up to 1804, the year of Dorothea’s death, when Christiane made a triumphant return to Mannheim in a remarkable series of guest performances. The Keilholz family is also a fascinating case study: an otherwise undistinguished theatrical family in which the extraordinary talent of one child, Christiane, became the anchor for the family as a whole. In the Notes, Edge outlines sources that remain to be investigated on Christiane’s life and career.
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