Page:Romain Rolland Handel.djvu/59

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HIS LIFE

51

The Hanover people began to murmur. The only means they could find of keeping their Prince at home with them was to build a magnificent opera house where spectacles and fêtes resembling those in Venice could be given. The idea was good. Ernest Augustus warmly took up the scheme for his opera house, which, built and decorated by the Italians between 1687 and 1690, was the most beautiful in all Germany.[1] For this opera house Steffani was engaged as Kapellmeister.[2] Agostina Steffani is one of the most curious figures in history.[3] Born in 1653 at Castelfranco, near Venice, of a poor family, after being a choir-boy at St. Mark's, he was taken in 1667 to Munich by the Count of Tattenbach, who had been the pupil of Ercole Bernabei, a master brought up in the purest Roman style.[4] At the same time he had been given a very complete education in literature, science, and theology, for he was destined for the priesthood, and

  1. Barthold Feind says in 1708: "Of all the German opera houses, the Leipzig one is the poorest, that of Hamburg the largest, the Brunswick the most perfect, and that of Hanover the most beautiful." The Opera of Hanover had four tiers of boxes, and was capable of accommodating 1300 people.
  2. The orchestra was composed chiefly of French musicians, and they were conducted by a Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Farinel, son-in-law of Cambert.
  3. A. Einstein and Ad. Sanberger have just republished in the Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Bayern a selection of Steffani's works. Arthur Neisser has devoted a little book to Steffani. Apropos of one of his operas Servio Tullio, Leipzig, 1902. See also the studies of Robert Eitner in the Allg. Deutsche Biographie; of Chrysander in his Haendel (Volume I), and also Fischer in his Musik in Hannover.
  4. Munich had become the centre of Italian music in Germany since the Prince-Elector Ferdinand had married in 1652 an Italian princess, Adelaide of Savoy. See Ludwig Schiedermair: Die Anfange der Münchener Oper (Sammelb. der I.M.G., 1904).