Lortzing, Gustav Albert


Born in Berlin, where his father was an actor; he developed, almost by his own efforts, into a good performer on the piano, violin and violoncello. He was for a time a pupil of Rungenhagen, but his father's profession did not permit of long residence at one place. He also attempted composition, and even at this early age he sang and acted upon the stage. He went to Cologne with his parents in 1822 and the next year he married an actress. His first operetta, Ali Pascha von Janina, appeared in 1824, and four years later his oratorio, Die Himmel fahrt phristi, was performed. During this time he had been an actor in the Court Theatre Company of Detmold. From 1833 to 1844 he was the tenor at the Stadttheatre at Leipsic, and these years were the happiest and most successful in his life. He wrote and composed the two comic operas, Die beiden Schutzen, and Czar und Zimmermann, both of which were successful and the latter was enthusiastically received all over Germany. In 1844 he was appointed chapelmaster of the Leipsic Theatre, but was unfitted for the position through his lack of a thorough education, and he gave it 'up in less than a year. Following this he wandered from place to place, conducting his own operas and sometimes acting, but bringing in very meager returns. This hardship in providing for his large family added to disappointment over the refusal of his operas broke his health and spirit. In 1850 he obtained the leadership of the Friedrich Wilhelmstadt Theatre in Berlin, where he had only farces and vaudeville to direct, but he died the next year. His compositions include, besides those already mentioned, the operas, Regina, Undine, and Wildschütz; several overtures; a second oratorio, Petrus; incidental music for various plays; and part-songs. His operas are still played at the comic theatres in Germany, their never-failing humor always ensuring their success. It is as a conductor, however, that Lortzing did his best work.