»Allersorgfältigste Ueberlegung«, Singspiel in North and Central Germany during the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century
German Singspiel in the second half of the eighteenth century is frequently viewed as a genre of superficial, un-important occasional works. »Allersorgfältigste Ueberlegung« [with the most careful consideration], as Johann Friedrich Reichardt described them in 1774, is not how one would expect them to be seen today – with the exception of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s and Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s contributions to the genre. However, in the eighteenth century Singspiel rose to be the most important part of the repertoire for travelling theatres, the first commercial theatres and even some court theatres, whilst also attracting a varied audience from all social classes as well as critical commentary. The view of previous scholarship is therefore drawn into question.
In this study, Adrian Kuhl considers the artistic factors found within north and central German libretti and their musical settings. In light of contemporary expectations of music-theatre forms and the respective compositional contexts, the focus is placed on detailed studies of individual works by well- and lesser-known composers and librettists – for example, Georg Anton Benda, Johann Adam Hiller, Christian Gottlob Neefe, Ernst Wilhelm Wolf, Christoph Friedrich Bretzner and Christian Felix Weiße. The resulting picture of this forgotten repertoire of a German language opera practice is completely different from that previously presented in scholarship and practice: differentiated characterization, planned and motivated use of song, and carefully designed musical settings of stage action contradict the previous view of Singspiel as being aesthetically non-demanding.