Personalities | Otto Nicolai | Early Romantic | Classical
(O’-to Ne’-ko-li) 1810–49
Nicolai studied in Berlin with Zelter, and in 1833 became organist at the embassy chapel in Rome, but he resigned in 1836 to pursue a career as an opera composer. He quickly found fame with Enrico II (‘Henry II’, 1839) and Il templario (The Templar’, 1840), and also made an impression as a conductor in Vienna, performing Beethoven’s symphonies and Fidelio. Since he was one of many German contemporaries to study in Italy, Nicolai’s style was grounded in Italian opera; his works epitomized Romanticism’s friction between intellect and emotion. His finest opera, the Shakespearean Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’, 1849), was at first rejected, but its popular national style, melodic inventiveness and comic situation soon established this work as a peak of early Romantic German opera.
Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor, soloists, Bavarian Radio SO (cond) Rafael Kubelík (Decca)
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