Dafne (Opitz-Schütz)

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Opera by Heinrich Schütz
LibrettistMartin Opitz
Based onDaphne myth
April 13, 1627
Hartenfels Castle, Torgau, Saxony, Germany

Die Dafne (1627) is an opera. Its libretto was written by Martin Opitz (which survives) and its music was composed by Heinrich Schütz (which is lost). It has traditionally been regarded as the first German opera, though it has also been proposed more recently that it was in fact a spoken drama with inserted song and ballet numbers.



Opitz was already a friend of Schütz and in all wrote twelve German madrigal texts for him. In 1625 and 1626 Opitz visited the Dresden court, to work with Schütz on a Sing-Comoedie based on the model of Jacopo Peri's Dafne.[1] Opitz rewrote the libretto after Rinuccini, translating it into Alexandrine verse, and his libretto was so highly regarded that it was later adapted back into Italian by later Italian librettists.[2] Opitz and Schütz' were probably attracted by religious content of the work, rather than the purely pagan mythology of Dafne or Euridice.[3] The electoral secretary to the Saxon Court, Johann Seusse also exerted influence on the project.[4]


The opera premiered in the banquet hall of Hartenfels Castle near Torgau, Saxony during the marriage of Princess Sophia Eleonore of Saxony and George II of Hesse-Darmstadt on April 13, 1627. However, the opera received little attention in midst of other activities during the ceremony, including bear fights on April 7 and 10 and a wolf hunt on April 9.

Loss and Reconstruction[edit]

Schütz's score for the opera was lost sometime during the Thirty Years' War. However, German musicologist Reinhard Seehafer managed to reconstruct the opera in 2007.


The opera is divided into a prologue and five acts.


Ovid delivers in seven stanzas of six verses the power of love.

Act I[edit]

Shepherds are terrorized by a monster in the countryside. Apollo arrives and slays the monster to the rejoice and celebration of the shepherds.

Act II[edit]

Cupid and his mother are engaged in bitter dialogue before being interrupted by the entrance of Apollo. Apollo mocks Cupid, and Cupid swears revenge. A choir of shepherds sings the glories of Cupid.

Act III[edit]

Cupid avenges himself by making Apollo fall in love with Daphne. Shepherds praise the benefits of hunting.

Act IV[edit]

Cupid celebrates his triumph with Venus. The shepherds sing of love.

Act V[edit]

Apollo chases Daphne until she calls upon the help of her father Peneus. Peneus turns Daphne into a laurel tree, eternally bestowing her leaves on poets. Shepherds and nymphs dance around the tree.[5]

Modern scholarly reevaluation[edit]

Although long unquestioned as "the first German opera"[citation needed] the performance started no notable tradition in Germany, and Wolfram Steude (1991) made the controversial proposal that Dafne was in fact a spoken drama with inserted song and ballet numbers. Consequently recent publications such as the latest edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Opera are more cautious in attribution of the "first German opera" claim. [6]

Other dramatic works by Schütz[edit]

Two other large scale sung dramas by Schütz are also lost:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Isabella Van Elferen -Mystical Love in the German Baroque: Theology, Poetry, Music - 2009 -Page 31 "The Dresden Kapellmeister Heinrich Schütz was a friend of Martin Opitz, who wrote twelve German madrigal texts for him.26 In 1625 and 1626 Opitz visited Dresden, where he worked with Schütz on a “Sing-Comoedie” entitled Dafne (first ..."
  2. ^ A Alms Adapting an adaptation: Martin Opitz's Dafne among the Italians 2012 em.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/02/23/em.car119.full 23 Feb 2012 "The 1627 Opitz–Schütz Dafne was in a sense a paradigmatic work: it presented a case that German opera could develop a lasting presence by ..."
  3. ^ Judith Popovich Aikin -A language for German opera: the development for forms and ... 2002 "Schutz's enthusiasm (and Opitz's) can be ascribed, according to Mayer, to the religious content of the work, which he thought should be much more attractive to both Germans than the pagan mythology of Dafne or Euridice."
  4. ^ Schütz-Jahrbuch: Volume 30; Volume 30 Internationale Heinrich Schütz-Gesellschaft, 2008 "Eine erste Begegnung Seusses mit Opitz könnte im August 1626 in Dresden erfolgt sein, als Schütz und Opitz das gemeinsame Dafne-Projekt besprachen. Opitz weilte in jenem Sommer in diplomatischer Mission des Burggrafen von Dohna in ..."
  5. ^ "Dafne par Heinrich SCHÜTZ". Opera Baroque (in French). Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  6. ^ Bettina Varwig Histories of Heinrich Schütz - Page 94 2011 "In 1991, Wolfram Steude published his controversial proposal that Dafne amounted to nothing more than a piece of 'spoken theatre with inserted song and ballet numbers'.2 The latest edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Opera ..."
  7. ^ a b "David Schirmer's Ballet von dem Paris und der Helena (1650): An Example of Early German Musical Drama". Archived from the original on 2007-08-24. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  8. ^ "German Literature Companion: August Buchner". Answers.com. Retrieved 2008-06-10.