Houses & Companies | A Royal Patron of Opera | Classical Era | Opera
A composer, librettist or other musician who attracted a royal patron acquired personal influence as a result. In Germany, this great good fortune devolved on anyone favoured by King Frederick II (‘The Great’) of Prussia. Frederick was an immensely powerful and able ruler and a rigid disciplinarian and it was inevitable that he approached his great interest, opera seria, as a demanding martinet. His control over operas performed in Berlin was unprecedented, even in an age of royal despotism. No libretto could reach Frederick’s composers, Hasse or Graun, unless the king had seen and approved it first. He also composed his own plots for operas and insisted on supervising the design of the stage sets and costumes. He was a constant – and daunting – presence at rehearsals, where he halted proceedings if one of the singers deviated even slightly from the agreed score. However, Frederick’s ‘reign’ as master of Berlin opera was relatively brief. After the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War in 1756, all opera staff were dismissed and Berlin’s influence on opera seria came to an end.
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