Grave of Friedrich von Flotow in the "Alter Friedhof" (old cemetery) in Darmstadt
Friedrich Adolf Ferdinand, Freiherr von Flotow (27 April 1812 – 24 January 1883) was a German composer. He is chiefly remembered for his opera Martha, which was popular in the 19th century.
Flotow was born in Teutendorf, in Mecklenburg, into an aristocratic family. He studied at the Conservatoire de Paris and came under the influence of Auber, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Donizetti, Halévy, and later Gounod and Offenbach. These influences are reflected in his operas, where a distinctive French opéra comique flavour exists.
He completed his first opera in 1835, Pierre et Cathérine, but his breakthrough came with Le naufrage de la Méduse (1839), based on the wreck of the warship Méduse. The three-act romantic opera Alessandro Stradella of 1844 is recognized as one of Flotow's finer works. Martha was first staged in Vienna at the Theater am Kärntnertor on 25 November 1847.
Between 1856 and 1863 Flotow served as Intendant of the court theatre at Schwerin. He spent his last years in Paris and Vienna and had the satisfaction of seeing his operas mounted as far away as Saint Petersburg and Turin. He died in Darmstadt at the age of 70.
In all, Flotow wrote about 30 operas. Many of these works were performed in different versions and under different titles, in German, French and sometimes other languages. Some survive, some are lost. All but Martha and Alessandro Stradella have fallen into relative obscurity, though there have been a number of attempts to revive other Flotow works in recent years.
His best known aria is probably "Ach! so fromm, ach! so traut." This was added to Martha eighteen years after the Vienna premiere. It was originally written for a Flotow opera of 1846. It has been much recorded in its Italian version, "M’apparì tutt’amor".