Regretfully, in the following years Hamburg’s opera house began its decline (Hogwood 29). Through Keiser’s inability to separate the producer and the composer he brought the opera house to its knees. Each time he saved himself and the opera theater through marriage in a wealthy wife (“Encyclopedia 342, 342). Reinhard left the theater in 1717 and for several years it switched directors. Finally it closed in 1739 just before Keiser’s death (“Composers” 198). This was the end of its sixty year reign as “the” German opera theater for the baroque period.
Many new, exciting and inventive operas came from the mind of George Caspar Schurman. He was one of the predecessors of Keiser to Hamburg’s opera theater. Although he was only there for a short while his more prominent works were done in his later years. Schurman was noted for his unique structure and care in voice writing as well as his orchestration. The operas that he produced had magnificent string arrangements which rivaled that of Johann Sebastian Bach. In one of his more famous pieces, Ludovicus Pius, oder Ludewig der Fromme, one could hear (or even view with a score) the grand counterpoint the created (Oxford 318, 319, 320). The bass line is relatively simple. However, the violins are in great form weaving in and out of those simple lines. Additionally, he employed pizzicato strings for its expressive nature in Act I of Ludovicus Pius (321).
Lastly, a composer that was renowned by all including Franz Schubert, Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach was Georg Philipp Telemann. He had written hundreds of pieces including forty operas. In 1721 he took residence in Hamburg. A year later he took over as director for Hamburg’s opera house(“Composers” 380, 381). In his operas it is evident that Telemann had a wide range of talents. He wrote in all styles from traditional German folk songs to the elaborate Italian style. His counterpoint nearly rivaled that of Bach’s (Oxford 316, 317). He also had mastered the different genres of operas. He wrote many comedies, tragedies, etc.
Although the beginning of opera has its roots at the turn of the seventeenth century in Italy it branched out heavily throughout Germany, more specifically in Hamburg. The German composers of this era pushed opera to a place that even the “inventors” could never have gone. The Germans brought their heritage, their thought and innovation into the opera were it would forever leave a mark. They brought more counterpoint and well organized orchestration along with sustained drama and comedy. They had built upon the Italian ideas, improved them and then broke them for they were outside the box of Italy. Rules, especially in the sense of music, are only put in place so that way they could be bent and broken.
Alle, John Gage, Ed. Webster’s Dictionary. Owings Mills: The Literary Press. 1997.
Ewen, David. The New Encyclopedia of the Opera. New York: Hill and Wang. 1971.
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Hogwood, Chistopher. Handel. Great Britain: The Pitman Press. 1984
Oxford University Press. Opera and Curch Music 1630-1750. The New Oxford History of Music Ser. 5. New York: Lewis & Fortune, 1975.
Weisstein, Ulrich, ed. The Essence of Opera. London: The Free Press of Glencoe. 1964.