Three documents from Meyer’s biography of Schröder
Posted: Fri, 7 Apr 2017
We have just added three new documents to our site, all from Meyer’s 1819 biography of Friedrich Ludwig Schröder. Meyer’s long personal acquaintance with Schröder gave him access to important primary documents, including Schröder’s travel diary from 1791.
In 1783, Johann Georg Schlosser dedicated to Schröder his translation of the ancient Greek play Prometheus Bound (long attributed to Aeschylus). Schröder was at that time a member of the ensemble of the court theater in Vienna, and Schlosser and Meyer were also both in Vienna in 1783. Meyer relates that he had suggested to Schröder around that time that a melodrama based on Prometheus Bound would be a perfect vehicle for the actor, and would offer material that a composer like Benda, Reichardt, or Mozart would be happy to compose.
The notes to this entry provide documentation of the dates of the performances of Benda’s melodramas Medea and Ariadne auf Naxos that Mozart attended in Mannheim in 1778, performances that triggered his brief but intense enthusiasm for the genre.
Così fan tutte was performed in German in Frankfurt am Main on 1 May 1791, under the title of Liebe und Versuchung; it is the earliest known performance of the opera outside Vienna. Schröder, who attended the premiere, recorded in his travel diary his dislike of the libretto and his mixed feelings about Mozart’s music. Dokumente gives only a short extract from this passage in Schröder’s diary and provides no context. We give the complete passage; the portions omitted by Deutsch document the presence at the premiere of the famous playwright August von Kotzebue, and the enthusiastic applause of the audience, in spite of general dissatisfaction with the libretto.
Our commentary provides a thorough reassessment of the Frankfurt production, mounted by the company of the Mainzer Nationaltheater. The cast of Liebe und Versuchung included several of the best singers on the German stage at that time, including two—tenor Friedrich Eunike and soprano Margarethe Luise Schick—who went on to considerable fame in careers at the Nationaltheater in Berlin. The Mainzer Nationaltheater played an important if generally unrecognized role in the early reception of Mozart’s operas outside Vienna. During its short lifetime (Nov 1788 to Oct 1792), the Mainz company mounted productions of five Mozart operas—Das verstellte Gärntnermädchen (La finta giardiniera), Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Don Juan, Figaro, and Liebe und Versuchung, performing all but perhaps Liebe und Versuchung in both Frankfurt and Mainz, all under the exacting direction of the multitalented actor, singer, composer, and pianist Carl David Stegmann. Our commentary also makes the case that the German libretto of Liebe und Versuchung almost certainly should be credited solely to Heinrich Gottlieb Schmieder, the resident poet of the Mainz ensemble, rather than jointly to Schmieder and Stegmann, or to Stegmann alone, as is commonly stated in the secondary literature.
This commentary is also our first to incorporate direct links to the scans of libretti in the Schatz Collection at the Library of Congress, which have recently been made available online.
During his stay in Mannheim in 1791, Schröder twice visited the eminent soprano Josepha Beck to hear her sing. Beck was perhaps the greatest voice of the distinguished Mannheim ensemble, but was heavily pregnant at the time and thus not appearing on stage. During Schröder’s second visit, Beck sang three arias, including one from Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Schröder called Beck “without question the best singer on all German stages,” and she was one of the pre-eminent Mozart sopranos of her age. She was also one of the earliest performers to sing major roles in staged productions of Mozart’s last six operas (her roles were Konstanze, the Countess, Donna Anna, Fiordiligi, Pamina, and Vitellia).
The commentary to this entry provides the complete text with translation of a poem printed in 1791 praising Beck’s guest performance in Weimar as Konstanze in “Mozart’s Meisterstück” (Mozart’s masterpiece) Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
We’re also excited to announce that our next installment, to be published shortly, will present two new documents that bring to light a hitherto unknown episode in Mozart’s last year.