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Picture of Giacomo Meyerbeer

Giacomo Meyerbeer

The Non-Operatic Texts

Author(s): Robert Ignatius Letellier
Contributors: Richard Arsenty;

Book Description

The fame of Giacomo Meyerbeer is associated principally with the operatic stage, but he wrote for the voice extensively in other genres as well, including non-operatic stage works, occasional public works, sacred music, choral music and songs, This volume collates and presents, in the original and in English translation, as many of these texts as have been published, or whose manuscripts have proved accessible to the editors.

There are six parts devoted to the various genres . Part 1 looks at the non-operatic stage works, the dramatic cantata he wrote at the beginning of his Italian period Gli Amori di Teolinda (1817), the masque written for Prussian court festivities Das Hoffest zu Ferrara (1842), and songs included in plays.

Part 2 is devoted to the occasional works Meyerbeer was asked to write throughout his life, twelve cantatas born out of commissions to celebrate dynastic events and to praise the deeds of famous men. Their festive purposes mark anniversaries of illustrious figures (like Guttenberg, Frederick the Great, Schiller, Rauch), commemorate events in national life like the Wars of Liberation recalled in the choral soliloquy, the Bayerische Schützen Marsch (1831, to words by King Ludwig I of Bavaria), or the visit of Queen Victoria to the Rhine in 1845, or the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of the King and Queen of Prussia in 1854. Linked to these are the part songs for male chorus given in Part 4, a ubiquitous German choral tradition; most of them were written for the Friends of the Berlin Singakademie, and used the themes so typical of communal merrymaking and affirmation—unity, friendship, patriotism, homeland, hunting:

Part 3 surveys the texts for sacred music, from the early oratorio Gott und die Natur (1811) to the canticle Ineffable splendeur de la gloire eternelle drawn from Thomas à Kempis (1862-3). The young composer’s skills and serious endeavours were demonstrated by the song cycle using seven religious odes by Klopstock (Sieben Geistliche Gesänge, 1812, revised 1841)—an early involvement with religious texts that continued intermittently throughout his life, and manifested itself preeminently in his eight-part setting of Psalm 91 (1853) and his beautiful choral version of the Our Father (1857).

Meyerbeer also wrote songs consistently, from his six Italian ariettas of 1810 to a canon for two voices completed in December 1862. These Lieder, mélodies and canzonette reflected the circumstances of his career, the various cultural milieux he moved in. They also helped to keep his name in the public eye in the wake of his great operatic successes, gaining popular currency by publication in musical journals. Part 5 provides the words of 54 of the 83 songs that are listed in his diaries.

These texts are given a visual dimension by some 36 illustrations, mostly the beautifully engraved titles pages of many of the published works.


ISBN-13: 978-1-8471-8287-6
ISBN-10: 1-84718-287-9
Date of Publication: 01/10/2007
Pages / Size: 350 / A5
Price: £44.99


Robert Ignatius Letellier was born in Durban on 11 August 1953, and educated in Grahamstown, Cambridge, Salzburg, Rome and Jerusalem. He is a member of Trinity College (Cambridge), the Salzburg Centre for Research in the Early English Novel (University of Salzburg), the Maryvale Institute (Birmingham), and the Institute for Continuing Education at Madingley Hall (Cambridge). Publications include books and articles on the late-seventeenth-, eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century novel (particularly the Gothic novel and Sir Walter Scott), the Bible, and European culture—with special emphasis on the Romantic opera and ballet, particularly the work of Giacomo Meyerbeer (a four-volume English edition of his diaries, a collection of studies, a reading of the operas, and a guide to research).

Richard Arsenty was born on 5 February 1945 in the U.S. midwest, and received degrees from the University of Illinois in Biology Education and Library Science. After teaching for seven years at the high school, college and university levels, he took advantage of a unique opportunity and went to work as a libretto translator for MRF Records in New Jersey. Eight years later he decided to return to academia, accepting a position as Science Reference Librarian at Purchase College near New York City. At the end of 2002, after sixteen years of service to the college, he took an early retirement and returned to Illinois where his family is located. Richard has translated more than 160 libretti for organizations such as Opera Orchestra of New York, The New York City Opera, The Waterloo Festival, Hungaraton Records, Orfeo Records and Opera Rara. His translations include all of Meyerbeer’s operas (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2004), Nerone (Boito), Das Liebesverbot (Wagner), La Juive (Halévy), Marino Faliero (Donizetti), Salammbô (Reyer), Jérusalem (Verdi), Crispino e la Comare (Ricci) and many others.