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A Whimsical Beginning


Felix Mendelssohn never wrote a significant opera, but, while trying to, he kept his good spirits. On June 28, 1834, he wrote a whimsical letter to librettist Karl Klingemann. At the top of the page the gifted composer–and painter–drew a cartoon of noisy trumpets and kettledrums.

Here you have a fanfare for the beginning of the opera. Have you really begun it? Send me right away the first line at least, or better still, everything that’s done. In all seriousness, my dear boy, I am very grateful to you and I beg you to stay with it now, so that for once in my life I’ll have a chance to write an opera. Will you please send me by return post a copy of the general outline as you have put it down so far?

I have plenty of ideas for the last act, but I can’t arrange them until I know–at least the basic outline–how you want to get the plot going. But those ideas might come in handy if I could work on them now. Let me know what you’ve kept from your notes and mine, and what you dropped so that I can complete my part. I had several suggestions for the first act, each of them in two different styles, and in order to continue with the third, I need to know which of them you’d like to pick up. The third act will be the most difficult, but unless I’m wrong, it will be the most novel and appealing of the entire work.

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Thanks, thanks, old boy! And tell me what kind of overture I should write for the opera? A fairy-tale style or otherwise fantastic? And in what key? I believe that if you can get the libretto to me this year, I can bring the finished score to England next spring, because I know I’ll hit my stride….

So, God willing, we shall get together early next year, play over our opera, have a happy, happy time and enjoy life. Stay well, work hard, and let me hear from you soon.