Heinrich Marschner

Heinrich Marschner

(8/16/1795 Zittau - 12/16/1861 Hanover)

Although his work has been generally neglected in the 20th century, Heinrich Marschner was a leading figure in German Opera in the period between Weber and Wagner, and wrote twenty-two operas and singspiels. He was born in Zittau, in 1795, and although studied law at the University of Leipzig, spent a considerable time developing his love of music.

His father was a Horndrechsler, a craftsman who made items of horn or ivory, but was a man who also had an abiding interest in music, and allowed his son the liberty to develop his considerable talent.

A meeting with a Hungarian nobleman, Count Thaddaeus Amadée de Varkony led to an attempt to induce Beethoven to accept Marschner as a pupil, in 1815. The following year Marschner became music teacher in the household of Count Johann Nepomuk Zichy, whose principal residence was in Pressburg (the modern Bratslava). There he undertook further sudy with Heinrich Klein, a leading figure in the music of the place. It was in Pressburg that he turned his more serious attention to the theatre with an opera, Der Kiffhäuser Berg, based on a Thuringian legend, a magic opera in the then currently popular style, but following Weber's example in using folk narrative material.

In 1817, marschner married, and became a widower within months, his wife dying of gangrene. Throughout his life, he was married three more times.

Another opera, Heinrich IV und Aubigné, had some success in Dresden, where Marschner settled in 1821, without immediate employment.

The first theatre commission Marschner undertook in Dresden was the composition of incidental music for Kleist's play, Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, and this was followed by music for an unsuccessful Volks-Trauerspiel, Schön Ella, a work that relied heavily on the archetypal German romantic ballad, Lenore. In Dresden, he met Weber, and in 1823 was appointed his assistant, although Weber had hoped to offer the position to his friend Johann Gänsbacher, to whom he was under some obligation. Relations between Weber and Marschner were never smooth, and the latter seemed to resent the obvious musical and dramatic influence that Weber perceptibly had on his own work. In 1824 Marschner became director of the German and the Italian opera in Dresden, undertaking, as he complained, most of the duties of Weber and of Morlacchi, the superintendent of the Italian opera. Marschner's second wife died in 1825; Weber died in June, 1826, and Marschner, unsuccessful in his petition to the court for Weber's position, resigned, travelling first to Berlin, then to Danzig, where he had a six-month contract at the opera, writing the two-act Lukretia, the title rôle being performed by his new wife, Marianne.

In 1827 Marschner returned to Leipzig, where his opera Der Vampyr, a subject of topical interest, won success. This was the first collaboration with his brother-in-law, Wilhelm August Wohlbrück, which was to continue through many of Marschner's most successful theatre works. Der Vampyr was followed by an opera derived from Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, Der Templer Und die Jüdin. Four years later he was successful in his application for the position of Kapellmeister in Hanover, a position he retained, in spite of difficulties, for the rest of his career. In 1833 He achieved his greatest success with the opera Hans Heiling, a work that established him as the leading proponent of German romantic opera. Subsequent dramatic works met varied reception, although his achievement was widely recognized. His most successful opera, Hans Heiling, follows the example of Weber's Der Freischütz, but in form exercised a strong influence on Wagner. In harmonic language Marschner was adventurous, and in Hans Heiling he provided a new rôle for the operatic baritone, as demon-king. The work has a clear influence on Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer both in narrative and in certain elements of detail.

Operas by Heinrich Marschner

Titus (1817)
Der Kiffhäuser Berg [Der Kyffhäuserberg] (ca. 1817)
Saidar und Zulima (1818)
Heinrich IV und d'Aubigné (1819)
Der Holzdieb (1825)
Lukretia (1827) (Op. 67)
Der Vampyr (1828)
Der Templer Und Die Jüdin (1829) (Op. 60)
Des Falkners Braut (1830) (Op.65)
Hans Heiling (1832)
Das Schloß am Ätna (1836)
Der Bäbu (1838) (Op. 98)
Das Stille Volk
Ali Baba
Der Wiener in Berlin
Fridthjof's Saga
Kaiser Adolf von Nassau (1844) (Op. 130)
Austin (1852)
Der Sängerkönig Hiarne,
oder [und] Das Tyrfingschwert (posth. produced, 1863)


Schön Ella (1822)
Prinz Friedrich von Homburg (Op. 56)
Der Goldschmied von Ulm (1856)
Die Hermannßchlacht

Other facts about the descendants of Heinrich A. Marschner

Alfred Marschner I and his son Alfred Marschner II was owner/editor of the Sheboygan Herald

1881/2: Henry (Heinz) Otto Alexander Marschner born Omaha 1888 d. 1927 buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Heinz Otto Alexander Marschner married Flora Nettleton Whitney, who later married a Mr. Fenton so her son Robert Alexander Marschner -- changed his name in 1943 to Fenton.

Their daughter Katherine married James Bernard Verdin and their grandchildren are called
Terri Suzanne (b.1964)
and Tracie Diane Higdon (b. 1966),
and Lynne Michele Kary b. 1955
Micheael Wade Fenton was born in 1955

Another Marschner descendant Alfred Guido Marschner was editor of a German newspaper Der Sheboygan Republikaner which became part of The National Democrat. He was postmaster on and off 1857 to 1869—fought in the Civil War for the Wisconsin Volunteers and bravely defended Sheboygan against Indians (who didn't attack).

His line has surnames like Zoermer, Kozick, Nelson, Parys, Englking, Wierwill, and Hahn.

contributed by John Mucci and John Lanigan-O'Keeffe

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Monday, 08-Dec-2003 21:48:47 PST