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Emanuel Schikaneder (Libretto)

Emanuel Schikaneder (Straubing, 1 September 1751 – 21 September 1812, Vienna), born Johann Joseph Schickeneder, was a German impresario, dramatist, actor, and singer. He was the librettist of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute and the builder of the Theater an der Wien.

Schikaneder first appeared with the theatrical troupe of F. J. Moser around 1773. Aside from operas, the company also performed farces and Singspiele. Schikander married an actress in this company, Eleonore Arth, in 1777, the same year he performed the role of Hamlet in Munich to general acclaim. He became the director of his troupe in 1778. He met Mozart in Salzburg in 1780, during an extended stay there by his company.

Schikaneder performed at the Karntnertortheater in Vienna from 1785, while still working with the Salzburg group as time permitted. His plan to build a theatre in Vienna was vetoed by Emperor Joseph II, which prompted him to temporarily leave for Regensburg. His company returned to Vienna in 1789 and became the resident company of the suburban Theater auf der Wieden.

The company was successful there, producing among other works a production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's already-popular opera The Abduction from the Seraglio (April and May of 1789). It also produced a series of fairy tale operas often involving elaborate theatrical machinery. These operas also made use of Schikaneder's ability to perform improvised comedy, as a "Hanswurst"-like character, inherited from the long tradition of the popular Viennese theater

The series of fairy-tale operas culminated in the September 1791 premiere of the Die Zauberflote, with music by Mozart. The libretto was Schikaneder's and incorporated a loose mixture of Masonic elements and traditional fairy-tale themes. Schikaneder took the role of Papageno--a character reflecting the Hanswurst tradition, and thus suited to his skills--at the premiere.

Schikaneder also may have given advice to Mozart concerning the musical setting of his libretto. The dramatist Ignaz Franz Castelli tells the following tale:

The late bass singer Sebastian Meyer told me that Mozart had originally written the duet where Papageno and Papagena first see each other quite differently from the way in which we now hear it. Both originally cried out "Papageno!", "Papagena!" a few times in amazement. But when Schikaneder heard this, he called down in to the orchestra, "Hey, Mozart! That's no good, the music must express greater astonishment. They must both stare dumbly at each other, then Papageno must begin to stammer: 'Pa-papapa-pa-pa'; Papagena must repeat that until both of them finally get the whole name out". Mozart followed the advice, and in this form the duet always had to be repeated.
Castelli adds that the March of the Priests which opens the second act was also a suggestion of Schikaneder's, added to the opera at the last minute by Mozart. These stories are not accepted as necessarily true by all musicologists.

The success of Die Zauberflote and other productions allowed Schikaneder to construct a new theatre in Vienna in 1801, making use of an Imperial license he had obtained 15 years earlier. This theater, the Theater an der Wien, was opened to a performance of the opera "Alexander", to Schikaneder's own libretto with music by Franz Teyber. According to the New Grove, the Theater an der Wien was "the most lavishly equipped and one of the largest theatres of its age". However, Schikaneder may have overextended himself in building it, as in less than a year he had to give up ownership, though he twice served the theater as artistic director, staging elaborate productions there.

During this period, Schikaneder was an artistic associate of Ludwig van Beethoven, who for a time attempted to set Schikaneder's libretto Vestas Feuer ("Vesta's Fire") as an opera. Beethoven lived in rooms in the Theater an der Wien during this time at Schikaneder's invitation, and continued there for a while as he switched his efforts in operatic composition to his Fidelio.

In 1804, the Theater an der Wien was sold to Baron Peter von Braun who immediately dismissed his archrival. Schikaneder left Vienna to work in Brno and Steyr. His life took a catastrophic turn starting in 1811. First, after economic problems caused by war and an 1811 currency devaluation, he lost most of his fortune. Then, in 1812, during a journey to Budapest to take up a new post, Schikaneder was stricken with insanity. He died in poverty on 21 September, 1812, aged 61, in Vienna.

Schikaneder wrote a total of about 55 theatre pieces and 44 libretti.





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