Friedrich von Flotow

Friedrich Adolf Ferdinand, Freiherr von Flotow is perhaps one of the more successful operatic German composers of the mid-19th century.

Born into an aristocratic family, he was a student in piano and composition at the Conservatoire de Paris who found inspiration from Rossini, Donizetti, and Auber. He would later go on to develop close friendships with Gounod and Offenbach. Elements of these influences and friendships are prevalent in his operas, written in an opera comique style.

Though his first opera was completed in 1835, it wasn’t until 1839 that he had a breakthrough and became more widely recognized, when his opera Lady Harriette was conducted by Franz Liszt. The height of his success occurred during the 1840’s with the operas Alessandro Stradella (1844) and Martha (1847). While he continued to write opera and other works into the 1850s and beyond, though none would achieve the popularity of Martha and were considered only moderately successful.

Flotow’s personal life consisted of tragedy following Martha, with his first wife dying while giving birth to their son in 1851. The child only survived a matter of weeks. In 1853, Flotow was wed to a 20-year old dancer. The couple had two children together, though they divorced in 1867. Less than a year later, Flotow married his second wife’s sister. Spending his last years between Paris and Vienna, he was able to experience his works being performed as far away as Turin and St. Petersburg. He died in his native Germany at the age of 70.

Writing nearly 30 operas during his lifetime, Flotow’s works have been performed in several different versions with varying titles and languages. While some compositions have been lost or destroyed, others exist in relative obscurity, though there have been several recent attempts to revive his works.

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