Composer, Conductor, Actor. He was the first important German creator of light opera. His biggest hit, "Zar Und Zimmerman" ("The Czar and the Carpenter", 1837), based on an episode in the life of Russia's Peter the Great, is still in the international repertory, while "Der Wildschutz" ("The Poacher", 1842) and the fairy tale opera "Undine" (1845) remain popular in Germany and Austria. Gustav Albert Lortzing was born in Berlin. His parents were touring actors and at age 19 he began playing juvenile roles in their productions. Although he had some instruction in musical theory he was essentially self-taught as a musician. After providing songs and incidental music for several plays he staged his first opera, the one-act "Ali Pasha von Janina", in 1828. From 1833 to 1844 Lortzing was employed as an actor-singer at the City Theatre in Leipzig, where his greatest operatic successes, beginning with "Die beiden Schutzen" (1837), would be introduced. As a composer his lilting, melodic style fused French opera comique and German singspiele techniques with a romantic flavor and keen sense of theatrical effect. He wrote the texts as well as the music for his operas, supervised their staging, and often sang the lead tenor roles in the premieres. But in the days before copyright law he sold his compositions outright and saw no royalties from his work. With 11 children to support he yearned for the steady income of a conducting post but his stints as music director of Leipzig's City Theatre (1844 to 1846) and at Vienna's prestigious Theatre an der Wein (with Franz von Suppe, 1846) were notable failures. Lortzing's final years were marked by poverty, failing health and professional disappointment. His most ambitious opera, "Regina" (1848), was banned because its revolutionary theme reflected Europe's political turmoil of the time; it would not be performed until 1899. He returned to the stage as an actor and finally took a job as conductor at a lowly Berlin vaudeville house. On January 20, 1851, the night he was to have attended the premiere of his musical comedy "The Opera Rehearsal", Lortzing suffered a stroke and died without medical treatment the following day. A public benefit was later held for his family. The operetta style he established in his homeland would be further developed in Austria by Suppe and Johann Strauss, Jr., and in France by Jacques Offenbach.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards