Personalities | Friedrich von Flotow | Early Romantic | Opera
Though German-born, Friedrich von Flotow studied in Paris and became largely identified with French opera. His first operas in the French style were written for private salon performances. Alessandro Stradella (1844), his first international success, revealed his penchant for building a work around one ‘hit tune’, in this case ‘Jungfrau Maria’. After leaving Paris for Vienna, von Flotow scored his greatest and most enduring triumph with Martha (1847), which included the popular song ‘The Last Rose of Summer’. Sadly, von Flotow never scaled these heights again, despite the charm of his La veuve Grapin (‘The Widow Grapin’, 1859). Nevertheless, von Flotow ensured his place in the development of opera with his cosmopolitan approach; he combined the influence of French opéra comique with the Italian lyricism of his vocal writing and the orchestral style favoured in German Romantic opera. Though his light touch made his music less suited to the more weighty operatic subjects, it was ideal for comic arias, with just the right fluency, grace and charm. One secret of von Flotow’s success in Paris was his skill in adapting the somewhat florid sentimental style of German Romantic opera to please the more cerebral French taste.
‘Die letzte rose’ (‘The Last Rose’)
In this aria from Act II of Martha by von Flotow, Lady Harriet – disguised as Martha – is asked by her lover Lionel to sing a folk song. She responds with an old Irish air, originally named ‘The Groves of Blarney’, which von Flotow adapted into ‘The Last Rose of Summer’.
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