1801–1851

Introduction

portrait

Born: Oc­to­ber 23, 1801, Ber­lin, Ger­ma­ny.

Died: Jan­u­a­ry 21, 1851, Ber­lin, Ger­ma­ny.

Buried: Ber­lin, Ger­ma­ny.

Biography

Albert was the son of Jo­hann Gott­lieb and Char­lotte So­phie Lort­zing, who had aban­doned their lea­ther shop and tra­velled through Ger­ma­ny as itin­er­ant ac­tors, found­ing the Ber­lin the­a­ter com­pa­ny Uran­ia, and turn­ing their am­a­teur pas­sion in­to a pro­fess­ion.

Albert’s first stage ap­pear­ance was at age 12, en­ter­tain­ing the au­di­ence with co­mic po­ems dur­ing in­ter­mis­sion in the Korn­haus at the Frei­burg Mün­ster.

From 1817, the Lortz­ings were part of the Jo­sef De­ro­si en­sem­ble in the Rhine­land, tread­ing the boards in Bonn, Düss­el­dorf, Bar­men and Aach­en. Al­bert be­came an au­di­ence fa­vo­rite, play­ing the roles of a youth­ful lov­er, a coun­try boy and bon vi­vant, some­times al­so sing­ing small te­nor or ba­r­itone parts.

Albert mar­ried ac­tress Ro­si­na Re­gine Ahles in 1824, and had 11 child­ren with her. The cou­ple be­longed to the Hof­the­a­ter in Det­mold from late 1826, which toured to Mün­ster and Os­na­brück. Lortz­ing joined the Free­ma­sons, a po­pu­lar re­fuge for ar­tists in Met­ter­nich’s po­lice state.

He com­posed an or­a­to­rio in Det­mold, Die Him­mel­fahrt Chris­ti, which pre­miered in Mün­ster, and pre­dict­a­bly earned a re­buke for the young com­pos­er from the Mün­ster re­gion­al gov­er­nor, who claimed Lortz­ing would ne­ver be­come fa­mous as a com­pos­er.

Lortzing com­posed the mu­sic for Chris­tian Diet­rich Grabbe’s Don Juan und Faust, play­ing the role of Don Juan him­self, with his wife as Don­na An­na. Lortz­ing re­ceived a glow­ing re­port from an anon­y­mous re­view­er in a Frank­furt pa­per, who al­so mis­tak­en­ly praised Lort­zing for the text by this bril­liant po­et. Grabbe, the real po­et, was out­raged, though the re­view did bring good pub­li­ci­ty for the piece.

On No­vem­ber 3, 1833, the Lort­zings gave their de­but at the Leip­zig Stadt­the­a­ter. Lort­zing’s par­ents had been mem­bers of this en­sem­ble since 1832, un­der Fried­rich Se­bald Ring­el­hardt. Here, Lort­zing be­came a mem­ber of the ar­tists’ club Tun­nel un­ter der Pleiße, and in 1834 joined the Leip­zig Free­ma­sons lodge Bal­du­in zur Lin­de. Lort­zing was much loved in the Leip­zig en­sem­ble, par­ti­cu­lar­ly when act­ing in Jo­hann Nes­troy’s co­me­dies. How­ev­er, his ten­den­cy to im­pro­vise and de­vi­ate from the script at­tract­ed the at­ten­tion of the the­a­tri­cal po­lice.

His first co­mic op­e­ra, Zar und Zim­mer­mann, had a tough time with the Leip­zig cen­sors. It pre­miered in Leip­zig on De­cem­ber 22, 1837. Lort­zing him­self sang the role of Pe­ter Iwa­now, but it did not make a ma­jor break­through un­til its Ber­lin per­form­anc­es in 1839, where it was much praised.

In 1844, Lort­zing be­came Ka­pell­meis­ter of the Leip­zig Stadt­the­a­ter. Aft­er a quar­rel with man­age­ment, he was dis­missed in Ap­ril 1845 due to his rheu­ma­tic trou­bles. The re­peated pro­tests of the pub­lic got him re­in­stat­ed, but he was soon dis­missed again af­ter an­o­ther ar­gu­ment. In an op­en let­ter, signed by al­most ev­ery­one in the en­sem­ble, he made a plea against the mea­sures taken by the ci­ty gov­ern­ment.

Between 1846 and 1848, Lort­zing worked as Ka­pell­meis­ter at the The­a­ter an der Wien in Vi­en­na. At the be­hest of the Free­dom Move­ment, he wrote text and mu­sic in 1848 for his po­li­ti­cal op­e­ra Re­gi­na, named af­ter his wife. This work con­cerned both la­bor strug­gles and fear of su­i­cide.

His last full-length op­e­ra was an 1849 fai­ry tale sa­tire of the Pruss­ian mil­i­tary state called Ro­lands Knapp­en, fea­tur­ing the re­peat­ed line Und das soll eine Welt­ord­nung sein? (And this is sup­posed to be a world or­der?).

In 1848, he lost his ap­point­ment and had to re­turn to work as a tour­ing ac­tor to sup­port his large fa­mi­ly. He worked at Ge­ra and Lü­ne­burg, among oth­er ci­ties. Fi­nal­ly, in 1850, he be­came the Ka­pell­meis­ter in Ber­lin at the new­ly op­ened Fried­rich-Wilhelm­städt­isch­es The­ater.

On Jan­u­ary 20, 1851, un­der huge stress and deep­ly in debt, he had a stroke the night he was to have at­tend­ed the pre­miere of his mu­sic­al co­me­dy Die Op­ern­pro­be. He died the next morn­ing with­out me­di­cal treat­ment. A num­ber of mu­sic­al lu­mi­nar­ies at­tend­ed his fun­er­al, in­clud­ing Gi­a­co­mo Mey­er­beer, Heinr­ich Dorn, Wil­helm Tau­bert and Carl Fried­rich Run­gen­ha­gen. Lort­zing’s the­a­tri­cal col­leagues de­co­rat­ed his cof­fin with black, red and gold, a com­bi­na­tion for­bid­den af­ter 1848. A pub­lic ben­e­fit was lat­er held for his im­pov­er­ished fa­mi­ly.

Sources

Music