A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Lortzing, Gustav
LORTZING, Gustav Albert, opera-composer, born at Berlin, Oct. 23, 1803, son of an actor. He studied for a time under Rangenhagen, but the wandering life entailed by his father's profession made steady instruction an impossibility, and at 9 he was thrown upon his own resources, played the pianoforte, violin, and cello, studied the works of Albrechtsbcrger and others, and soon began to compose. At the same time, he habitually sung and acted on the stage, and thus secured a familiarity with the practical requirements of the boards which was of great advantage to him. In 1822 he went with his parents to Cologne, where lie married before he was 20, and produced his first operetta 'Ali Pascha von Janina.' The company to which he belonged served the theatres of Detmold, Münster, and Osnabrück, in addition to that of Cologne, and at all these his opera was repeated. In 1833 he was engaged as first tenor at the Stadttheater at Leipzig, and here he passed a happv and successful 10 years. In 1837 he wrote and composed two comic operas, 'Die beiden Schützen' and 'Czaar und Zimmermann.' Both were successful, and the latter was at once performed all over Germany. His next few works however fell flat, and it was not till 1842 that his 'Wildschütz,' arranged from Kotzebue's comedy, again aroused the public. He then gave up acting, and in 1844 was appointed Capellmeister of the theatre, a post for which he was unfitted both by his easy disposition and his defective education, and which he resigned in the following year. He next produced 'Undine' (1845 [App. p.705 "1846"]) with success at Hamburg and Leipzig, and 'Der Waffenschmidt' (1846) at Vienna, where he was for a short time Capellmeister at the theatre 'an der Wien.' In 1849 the success of his 'Rolandsknappen' at Leipzig, again procured him the offer of the Capellmeistership, but to his disappointment the negotiations fell through, and Rietz was appointed. His life was now a hard one; he travelled from place to place with his numerous family, earning a precarious existence now as an actor, now by conducting his own operas; enduring at the same time the mortification of having his later operas rejected by all the more important theatres. In 1850 he obtained the conductorship at the Friedrich-Wilhelmstadt theatre in Berlin, where he had only farces and vaudevilles to direct; but he was completely worn out, and died on the 21st of Jan. 1852 [App. p.705 "1851"]. The public discovered its neglect too late, honoured his remains with a solemn funeral procession, and raised a subscription which placed his family above want. He left an opera, 'Regina,' several overtures, incidental music for various plays, Lieder, and part songs, all unpublished. His operas are still stock-pieces at the comic theatres in Germany, and 'Undine' is frequently performed, although romantic subjects were not his forte. 'Czaar und Zimmermann' was produced as 'Peter the Shipwright,' at the Gaiety theatre, London, as lately as April 17 [App. p.705 "April 15"], 1871.As a composer Lortzing is remarkable for naturalness. Instead of straining after a depth and subtlety beyond his powers, he wisely aims at expressing natural and healthy sentiments by means of graceful and pleasing music, and his keen sense of humour enables him to give an interest to commonplace situations. He was never able to free himself entirely from a slight amateurishness in the technical part of his work, but his compositions, though not belonging to the highest branch of art, are good of their kind, and in spite of an occasional tendency to farcical exaggeration, are sound and artistic music.
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