Romantic Opera by Karl Grammann1
February 8, 1885
Our contemporary German composers all suffer from an idée fixe. They believe that they can set only librettos that deal from the beginning to end with matters utterly German.
(It sometimes happens, to be sure, that in the course of an ever so German opera, among peasants and burghers, in the forest or on the meadow, a swarm of light-footed short-skirted sylphs will make their presence abundantly conspicuous by their shameless and at the same time infinitely ludicrous antics. just as in the very un-German French grand opera. This seems not in the least to compromise the German patriotism of the composer and his librettist colleague, for both proceed, thereupon, to carry on more Germanically than ever, which is to say, more tediously, more heavily, more mindlessly, more incompetently than before. One need not, therefore, reckon it a denial of an audience's patriotism, however German that audience may be, if the Germans in its ranks, attesting their lively gratitude for the composer's patriotic sentiments by sincere applause, find it convenient at the opportune moment, i.e., just after the interpolated ballet, to take to their heels in all haste, and thus, by swift flight, salvage those vestiges of their wit and humor not melted away under the leaden roofs of such Germano-operatic boredom in order to defy with what remains of such precious gifts more serious castastrophes than deadly German opera evenings.)
For such composers anything not having to do with German sagas, German myths, German fables, does not exist. History books too, are industriously examined, but not without circumspection so far as the grandeur of the forefathers is bound up with the destinies of alien peoples. Welcome treasures, too, are the old German chronicles, and many a composer who has hunted vainly for a historical Minnesänger or Meistersänger has settled finally for a mythical rat catcher, just so long as the tale is German and, if possible. romantic, for on the romantic element all depends. But no, that's overstating the case. Romanticism alone is no longer enough for them. They find it too incredible that one should set off into the blue yonder in search of the marvel of Peru2without a historical setting. They know their public, and they know perfectly well that it is not a child, and that it will not easily be satisfied with