The Dresden Gamble


The same piece of music can draw very different reactions from city to city as Carl Maria von Weber reported from Dresden to a friend in Berlin in April 1824:

“I’ve been going through a rough patch, and maybe it’s just as well that my enormous workload didn’t give me much time to think. But still I couldn’t help feeling a sustained bitterness. At Prague Euranthe was a flop. At Franfurt it caused an uproar. Everyone was dumfounded by the notorious scrawlings of the Viennese gossip columnists.

“So I was very curious to find out what kind of response it would get from our cool, subdued, and particular public here in Dresden. The attitude was unfriendly rather than accepting. So Euranthe was performed last night—and the triumph was beyond imagining! Never had I seen a Dresden audience so roused, so enthusiastic. The excitement grew from one act to the next. When it ended they called for me and then they called for the entire cast.

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“I have to admit that it was a top-flight performance. In particular, Devrient—who played Euranthe—and Mademoiselle Funk as Eglantine outdid themselves as actors and singers. Mayer as Lysiart and Bergman as Adolar both did quite nicely. The chorus was top notch. The orchestra played with a precision and subtlety to be found here only.

“Now everybody is saying that the opera is even better than Der Freischutz. Tieck, [among others, was supposed to have attended a party after the opera but declared that his head was already filled by it. He] said–to other people naturally—that there were things in the opera that Gluck and Mozart would be jealous of. I know that I can relate such things to you without being misconstrued. I wouldn’t dare tell anyone else in the world.”

Carl Maria von Weber savoring the eventual success of what proved one of the great 19th-century operas—Euranthe—in April 1824.

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