PETER JOSEF VON LINDPAINTNER (1791 - 1856)
Lindpaintner devoted considerable energy and enthusiasm to developing his career as a composer, especially where opera was concerned. By the time he died (in 1856), he had written 21 operas in a wide range of genres—a complete digest of the operatic forms that were in vogue during his lifetime, from opera seria (Demophoon, 1810, reworked in 1819 under the influence of Rossini’s operatic hits as Timantes) through German Romantic opera (Sulmona, 1823, Der Bergkönig, 1825, Der Vampyr, 1828), German comic opera with spoken dialogue (Die Macht des Liedes, 1836, Libella, 1855) and historical grand opera (Die Genueserin, 1838, Die sizilianische Vesper, 1843, Giulia oder die Korsen 1853) to a prestigious festive opera for the inauguration of the remodelled court theatre (Lichtenstein, 1846).
The versatility of Lindpaintner’s operatic output was partly a result of the dilemma facing German composers in the first half of the 19th century, namely: how were they to develop an operatic form that was specifically German? Repertoire was largely dictated by the tastes of audiences. They, in the main, favoured operas by French and Italian composers, so three quarters of theatrical programmes were devoted to such works. Critics and widely disseminated theoretical writings, on the other hand, were calling for a distinct German approach to the genre. Time and again, this gave rise to works that ignored listeners’ demands that opera should be enjoyable and appeal to the senses. Lindpaintner, too, was forced to realise, as a result of operas like Sulmona, that placing excessive demands on his audience was not conducive to box office success. After that, he took a different tack, trying to achieve a breakthrough by emulating Auber, Rossini and Meyerbeer in writing historical operas. ‘I ventured to turn my hand to a work in the grand operatic vein’, he wrote; ‘I wanted to try and find a way to the German people’s hearts, winning them over as listeners by writing tunes that would be easy for most people to grasp.’ The composition under discussion here is Lindpaintner’s Die sizilianische Vesper (‘The Sicilian Vespers’), a grand heroic opera in four acts about the successful Sicilian uprising of 1282 against French rule under Charles of Anjou.