Flotow, Friedrich von


An operatic composer best remembered as the author of Martha. He was the son of a noble German who resided in Paris. When Flotow was fifteen he went to Paris to study under Reicha. His first operatic venture was Peter and Catherine, which was brought out at Hotel Castellan about 1831. He next composed La Duchesse de Guise, which was founded on a Polish story, and produced for the benefit of the Polish exiles. Stradella was his first great success and was produced in 1837 at the Palais Royale. It is a melodious work, based upon the famous though mythical scene between the musical Stradella and the assassins who were paid to put him to death, but who were so charmed by his voice that they fled, leaving him to escape.

George P. Upton says of Stradella: " The opera is one of the most charming of Flotow's works, for its apt union of very melodious music with dramatic interest." It contains a beautiful serenade, a brilliant nocturne, and carnival chorus, and Stradella's lovely prayer to the Virgin in the last act is strikingly melodious. Stradella was succeeded by L'Aine en Peine, written for the Grand Opera at Paris and there performed with great success. Both L'Aine and Stradella were translated into English, and the last-named work has been translated also into Italian. In Martha the composer produced a thoroughly international work, and its history is interesting. In 1843 Flotow joined two French composers, Burgmüller and Delderes, in writing the music of a ballet, which after being successfully produced at the Paris Grand Opera was given in London. Flotow caused a libretto to be written on the same theme, and this, after setting it to music, was named Martha. It appeared at Vienna in 1847, was next produced at London in 1858 and was later heard all over the world. It has enjoyed a wide popularity. It is light though tuneful and belongs more to comic than to grand opera. It is still successful despite Feds' gloomy prophecy that it would be only too soon forgotten. In it are fragments of very good music, and the composer further adorned it by interpolating the beautiful song, The Last Rose of Summer. Mme. Christine Nilsson made a great success in it, as did Mme. Patti. " The charm of this opera," says Upton, " is its tunefulness in music and its liveliness in action. Though not a grand opera, from the musical point of view, it is one of the most popular in the modern repertory and it has always retained its popularity, and its melodies, sung in every country of the civilized world by amateurs and professional artists, have not lost their charm." Beside the operas already mentioned, Flotow wrote other operas, including L'Ombre, II Flor d'Harlem, Enchantress, Indra and eleven others. With the exception of his operatic works his compositions are little known, although he composed some incidental music to The Winter's Tale, several overtures, songs and chamber-music.