Personalities | Georg Philipp Telemann | Late Baroque | Opera
Telemann was born in Magdeburg, and created his first opera at the age of 12, in which he sang the title role and organized its informal performance in the street. Telemann was influenced by the operas he heard at the Brunswick court and Berlin. He attended university in Leipzig, and became the director of the local opera house, while he also provided several operas for the court at Weissenfels. Telemann claimed to have composed more than 50 operas, but only nine of these are extant. The earliest of these is Die Satyren in Arcadien (‘The Satyrs of Arcadia’, 1719, revised for Hamburg 1724). After holding various positions in Sorau, Eisenach and Frankfurt, Telemann became director of music at Hamburg’s five principal churches in 1721. The following year he became musical director at the Gänsemarkt opera house (where Handel and Mattheson had worked in the early years of the century). Seven of Telemann’s alleged 35 Hamburg operas have survived. Most of these date from the 1720s, and demonstrate the bizarre mixture of German and Italian texts that was popular in Hamburg. By default this makes Telemann an innovative pioneer of German opera, although his musical style was essentially Italianate, and he also adapted operas by Handel, Porpora and Campra for the Hamburg stage.
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