“Songs from the Dark”: The Origins of German Romantic Opera and Its Ties to English Gothicism

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. William Pannapacker, Hope College

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The development of German romantic opera is often credited to Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) with his opera Die Freischütz (1821). This opera features elements of the German artistic movement Sturm und Drang, which focused on expression and mysticism. The primary literary leaders of Sturm und Drang were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805). When English Gothicism spread to continental Europe, more writers began to try their hand at their own terror stories, such as Schiller himself with his novel Der Geisterseher (1787-1789). With the increasing level of Gothicism appearing in Austria and Germany towards the end of the 18th century, how did it influence the development of the German Romantic Opera? How did Mozart’s Vienna react to a darker style of opera after a long period of the comical Singspiel? How did Sturm und Drang continue to influence opera in the 19th century? My project shows how, by the end of this process, the name most associated with the movement of German Romantic Opera would be German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

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