Der Schauspieldirektor

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Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario), K. 486, is a comic singspiel by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, set to a German libretto by Gottlieb Stephanie, an Austrian Schauspieldirektor. Originally, it was written because of "the imperial command" of the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II who had invited 80 guests to a private luncheon.[1] It is regarded as "a parody on the vanity of singers",[1] who argue over status and pay.

Mozart, who describes it as "comedy with music"[2] wrote it as his entry in a musical competition which was given a private performance hosted on 7 February 1786 by Joseph II at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.[3] This competition pitted a German singspiel, presented at one end of the room, against a competing Italian opera, the Italian entry being Antonio Salieri's opera buffa, Prima la musica, poi le parole (First the Music, then the Words), which was then given at the other end of the room.[1] The premiere was followed by the first of three public performances given four days later at the Kärntnertor Theater, Vienna, on 11 February.[3]

Composition history[edit]

The work was written during a very creative period Mozart's life, at the same time as his Le nozze di Figaro, which premiered later the same year, along with three piano concertos and "another dozen major works".[1]

In addition to the overture, there are only four vocal numbers in the score, and the musical content (about 30 minutes)[4] is surrounded by much spoken dialogue, topical in its day. One highlight, which Erik Smith describes as very funny, is where "each lady sings about the nobility of her art while trying to defeat her rival with ever higher notes".[1] Although it has been described as a "silly farce", Mozart appears to have taken the opportunity to write serious arias[5] and thus the "audition" of Madame Herz includes her aria "Da schlägt die Abschiedsstunde" ("There tolls the hour of departure"), while Mme Silberklang sings the elegrant rondo, "Bester Jüngling" ("Dearest Youth").[5]

Performance history[edit]

The opera was first presented in the United Kingdom on 30 May 1857 at the St James's Theatre in London and given its US premiere at the Stadt Theatre in New York on 9 November 1870.[1]

In modern times, the text is usually completely rewritten for contemporary relevance, which was the case for the 2014 production given by The Santa Fe Opera. There it had "English dialogue by the British dramatist Ranjit Bolt and additional Mozart concert arias folded into the score" with the action taking place in Paris in the 1920s.[6] The cast included Anthony Michaels-Moore, Brenda Ray, Meredith Arwady, and Erin Morley.[7]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere cast, 7 February 1786[3]
(Conductor: – )
Frank, an impresario spoken role Johann Gottlieb Stephanie Jr.
Eiler, a banker spoken role Johann Franz Hieronymus Brockmann
Buff, a buffo singer bass Joseph Weidmann
Monsieur Vogelsang, a singer tenor Valentin Adamberger
Madame Herz, a singer soprano Aloysia Weber
Mademoiselle Silberklang, a singer soprano Caterina Cavalieri
Herz, an actor spoken role Joseph Lange
Madame Pfeil, an actress spoken role Anna Maria Stephanie
Madame Krone, an actress spoken role Johanna Sacco
Madame Vogelsang, an actress spoken role Maria Anna Adamberger

Synopsis[edit]

Vienna
Time: 1786

Frank, the impresario (along with the buffo singer, Buff, who assists him) audition two actresses to be part of his new theatrical company. While both are hired, they then argue over who will get the prime role and who will be paid the most. To illustrate their strengths, each sings a striking aria to back her claim (Hertz: "Da schlägt die Abschiedsstunde", Silberklang: "Bester Jüngling"). An agreement is reached when the tenor, Volgelsang, intervenes, in what Rushton describes as a hilarious trio, Ich bin die erste Sängerin ("I am the prima donna") compromise is agreed to with each receiving "large salaries and star billing".[5] The work ended with the quartet "Jeder Künstler strebt nach Ehre" (Every artist strives for glory).

Recordings[edit]

Year Cast:
Madame Herz,
Mlle Silberklang,
Vogelsang,
Buff
Conductor,
Opera house and orchestra
Label[8]
1968 Sylvia Geszty (de),
Rosemarie Rönisch,
Peter Schreier,
Hermann Christian Polster (de)
Helmut Koch (de),
Kammerorchester Berlin (de)
CD: Berlin Classics
Cat: 9136. Complete recording of 10 scenes including those spoken.
Also used in Brilliant Classics' Mozart – Complete Works.
1986 Magda Nador,
Krisztina Laki,
Thomas Hampson,
Harry van der Kamp
Nikolaus Harnoncourt,
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
CD: Teldec
Cat: 8 43336 (+Prima la musica, poi la parole)
1990 Edita Gruberová,
Kiri Te Kanawa,
Uwe Heilmann,
Manfred Jungwirth
John Pritchard,
Vienna Philharmonic
CD: Decca,
Cat: 475 7049 (+ concert arias)
2001 Cyndia Sieden,
Sharon Baker,
John Aler,
Kevin Deas
Martin Pearlman,
Boston Baroque
CD: Telarc
Cat: 80573 (+ Der wohltätige Derwisch (de) by Benedikt Schack)
2006 Aleksandra Zamoiska,
Evmorfia Metaxaki,
Bernhard Berchtold,
Radu Cojocariu
Elizabeth Fuchs,
Junge Philharmonie Salzburg
(Video recording of a performance by the Salzburger Marionetten)
DVD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 073 4244 (+ Bastien und Bastienne)

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f Smith 2001, p. 608
  2. ^ in Rushton 1998, p. 214
  3. ^ a b c Opera Glass on opera.stanford.edu
  4. ^ Libretto, in German (musical numbers only) on opera.stanford.edu
  5. ^ a b c Rushton 1998, p. 214
  6. ^ Details of the 2014 production on santafeopera.org
  7. ^ James Keller, "Songbirds at the Opera: The Impresario and Le rossignol, The Santa Fe New Mexican, 18 July 2014
  8. ^ Recordings on operadis-opera-discography

Sources

External links[edit]