Reinhard Keiser (January 9, 1674 – September 12, 1739) was a popular German opera composer based in Hamburg. He wrote over a hundred operas, and in 1745 Johann Adolph Scheibe considered him an equal to Johann Kuhnau, George Frideric Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann (also related to the Hamburg Opera), but his work was largely forgotten for many decades.
He was born in Teuchern (in the Weißenfels district), son of the organist and teacher Gottfried Keiser (born about 1650), and educated by other organists in the town and then from 11 at the Thomas School in Leipzig, where his teachers included Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau, direct predecessors of Johann Sebastian Bach.
In 1694, he became court-composer to the duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, though he had probably come to the court already as early as 1692 to study its renowned operas, which had been going on since 1691, when the city had built a 1200-seater opera-house. Keiser put on his first opera Procris und Cephalus there and, the same year, his opera Basilius was put on at Hamburg and, as the musicologist Johann Mattheson noted, "received with great success and applause."
This was a fruitful period for him—composing not only operas, but arias, duets, cantatas, sérénades, church music and big oratorios, background music—all for the city's use.
In 1697 he settled permanently in Hamburg, and became the chief composer at the highly renowned Gaensemarktoper (now rebuilt as the Hamburg State Opera) in Hamburg from 1697 to 1717. From 1703 to 1709, Keiser moved it from being a public institution to a commercial entity with two to three representations per week, in contrast to the operas intended for nobility.
In 1718, with the Hamburg Opera defunct, he left Hamburg to seek other employment, going to Thuringia and then Stuttgart. From this period, only three manuscripts of sonatas in trio for flute, violin and low continuos survive. During the summer 1721, he returned to Hamburg, but only a few weeks later made a rapid exit to Copenhagen with a Hamburg opera troop, probably because of the growing influence of Georg Philipp Telemann, engaged by the city magistrate in Keiser's absence. Between 1721 and 1727, Keiser traveled back and forth between Hamburg and Copenhagen, receiving the title of Master of the Danish Royal Chapel.
After the dissolution of the opera troop, Keiser returned once more to Hamburg, but changes in its modus operandi made repeating past success difficult. Three operas from the period between 1722 and 1734 survive. Personal relations with Telemann remained good, with Telemann programming several productions of Keiser's operas.
In 1728 he became the cathedral presenter of Hamburg, and wrote largely church music there until his death in 1739.
(First performances in Hamburg, unless stated otherwise)
Der königliche Schäfer oder Basilius in Arkadien (probably Braunschweig 1693)
Cephalus und Procris (Braunschweig 1694)
Der geliebte Adonis (1697)
Der bei dem allgemeinen Welt-Frieden von dem Großen Augustus geschlossene Tempel des Janus (1698)
Die wunderbar errettete Iphigenia (1699)
Die Verbindung des großen Herkules mit der schönen Hebe (1699)
La forza della virtù oder Die Macht der Tugend (1700)
Störtebeker und Jödge Michels (two sections, 1701)
Die sterbende Eurydice oder Orpheus (two sections, 1702)
Die verdammte Staat-Sucht, oder Der verführte Claudius (1703)
Der gestürzte und wieder erhöhte Nebukadnezar, König zu Babylon (1704)
Octavia (Die römische Unruhe oder Die edelmütige Octavia) (1705)
Die kleinmütige Selbst-Mörderin Lucretia oder Die Staats-Torheit des Brutus (1705)
Masagniello (Die neapolitanische Fischer-Empörung oder Masaniello furioso) (1706)
Der angenehme Betrug (Der angenehme Betrug oder Der Carneval von Venedig) (1707)
La forza dell'amore oder Die von Paris entführte Helena (1709)
Desiderius, König der Langobarden (1709)
Der durch den Fall des großen Pompejus erhöhete Julius Caesar (1710)
Croesus (Der hochmütige, gestürzte und wieder erhabene Croesus) (1710, revised edition 1730)
L'inganno fedele oder Der getreue Betrug (1714)
L'Amore verso la patria oder Der sterbende Cato (1715)
Das zerstörte Troja oder Der durch den Tod Helenens versöhnte Achilles (1716)
Die großmütige Tomyris (1717)
Jobates und Bellerophon (1717)
Ulysses (opera) (Copenhagen 1722)
Bretislaus oder Die siegende Beständigkeit (1725)
Der lächerliche Printz Jodelet (opera) (1726)
Lucius Verus oder Die siegende Treue (1728)
Reinhard Keiser began his musical career at St. Thomas' seminary in Leipzig and ended it at another religious forum. Although the operas that he wrote, nearly more than a hundred after "Il repastore" were well received, he was more comfortable with the religious music that he composed in the forms of passions, cantatas, motets, and psalms. He appeared to want to remind individuals through his profound musical compositions that there is a spiritual world and that individuals should prepare for the spiritual existence while on earth.
All links retrieved July 8, 2015.
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