FRIEDRICH LUDWIG AEMILIUS KUNZEN (1761 - 1817)
Born into a musical family, Kunzen had lessons from his father but entered Kiel University as a student of law. His meeting there with C.F. Cramer persuaded him to devote his attention to music. Returning to Denmark, he enjoyed some success as a keyboard player, concert organiser and composer; but after the failure of his opera Holger Danske in 1789 he moved to Germany – first to Berlin, and then as Kapellmeister at the theatre in Frankfurt am Main. An appointment in Prague as opera director followed, and then in 1795 he returned to Copenhagen as music director and then Kapellmeister to the Court Chapel.
Much of Kunzen’s career involved him in the theatre as a conductor and as a composer of Singspiel and incidental music. His opera Holger Danske (‘Holger the Dane’) is based on an old French poem, popularised in Danish translation from its first publication in 1534. The libretto, by Jens Baggesen, has the young Danish knight of the title compelled to expiate his killing of a son of Charlemagne by engaging in a quest that will take him to impossible adventures in Baghdad.