Who Can Write An Opera? F.C. Bressand and the Baroque Opera Libretto

Emily S. Hauze


The German opera librettist of the seventeenth century wielded a surprising amount of power. The birth of opera in Germany is marked by authorial practices that seem peculiar by current standards, the interpretation of which is complicated by the disappearance of virtually all opera scores from this period. The libretti, however, were consistently preserved and published—as operas or singspiels—under the name of the librettist. The genre of texts written for operatic setting was a recognized literary form in itself. The German opera librettist stood in a tradition that reached back to the medieval Minnesingers and that was rearticulated in the poetics of Martin Opitz. Through the example of F. C. Bressand, a prominent Baroque librettist who has now nearly been forgotten, I argue that the authorial dynamic between opera composers and librettists was the reverse of that which has since prevailed: the librettist was considered the primary author. (ESH)

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