Høstgildet by J.P.A. Schulz: A national Singspiel?
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This chapter deals with an opera by the North German composer Johann Peter Abraham Schulz (1747–1800), namely, the one-act Singspiel, Høstgildet (The Harvest Festival), composed in 1790 to a libretto by Thomas Thaarup (1749–1821). While Ellen Karoline Gjervan’s chapter in this volume deals with the theatrical aspects of Høstgildet, the present article addresses the work’s musical features and assesses the quality of its “national” character. Høstgildet was premiered on 16 September 1790 as part of the festivities honouring the newlywed Danish crown prince Frederik (later Frederik VI) and his bride, Marie, Princess of HesseKassel. The importance of Høstgildet far exceeded the occasion for which it was written. It enjoyed many performances, mostly in Denmark, and also in Norway, which, at the time of the opera’s composition was part of the dual monarchy Denmark-Norway. Høstgildet’s popularity continued well into the nineteenth century. The libretto was published in numerous editions, with textual revisions made according to shifting political situations. Below, I first want to give an outline of the composer’s background, education and career before coming to Denmark, his aesthetics and his connection to the second Berlin school of Lied composition, all of which is important in understanding the ideals underlying the music of Høstgildet. I will also describe briefly the situation of opera in Copenhagen before Schulz’s arrival, analyse certain musical aspects of the work and examine a few characteristics of the genre to which it belongs. The Danish musicologist Nils Schiørring (1910–2001) considered Høstgildet to be a national Singspiel. Finally, I want to consider critically what this designation might imply in terms of the music.