Reinhard Keiser (9 January 1674 – 12 September 1739) was a popular German opera composer based in Hamburg. He wrote over a hundred operas, and in 1745 Johann Adolph Scheibe considered him an equal to Johann Kuhnau, George Frideric Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann (also related to the Hamburg Opera), but his work was largely forgotten for many decades.
Keiser was born in Teuchern (in present Saxony-Anhalt), son of the organist and teacher Gottfried Keiser (born about 1650), and educated by other organists in the town and then from 11 at the Thomas School in Leipzig, where his teachers included Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau, direct predecessors of Johann Sebastian Bach.
In 1694, he became court-composer to the duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, though he had probably come to the court already as early as 1692 to study its renowned operas, which had been going on since 1691, when the city had built a 1200-seater opera-house. Keiser put on his first opera Procris und Cephalus there and, the same year, his opera Basilius was put on at Hamburg and, as the musicologist Johann Mattheson noted, "received with great success and applause."
This was a fruitful period for him - composing not only operas, but arias, duets, cantatas, sérénades, church music and big oratorios, background music - all for the city's use.
About 1697 he settled permanently in Hamburg, and became the chief composer at the highly renowned Gänsemarktoper (now rebuilt as the Hamburg State Opera) in Hamburg from 1697 to 1717. From 1703 to 1709, Keiser changed the opera house from being a public institution to a commercial venture with two to three performances a week, in contrast to the opera houses intended for the nobility.
In 1718, with the Hamburg Opera defunct, he left Hamburg to seek other employment, going to Thuringia and then Stuttgart. From this period three manuscripts of sonatas in trio for flute, violin and bass continuo survive. During the summer 1721, he returned to Hamburg, but only a few weeks later made a rapid exit to Copenhagen with a Hamburg opera troop, probably because of the growing influence of Georg Philipp Telemann, engaged by the city magistrate in Keiser's absence. Between 1721 and 1727, Keiser traveled back and forth between Hamburg and Copenhagen, receiving the title of Master of the Danish Royal Chapel.
After the dissolution of the opera troop, Keiser returned once more to Hamburg, but changes in its modus operandi made repeating past success difficult. Three operas from the period between 1722 and 1734 survive. Personal relations with Telemann remained good, with Telemann programming several productions of Keiser's operas.
In 1728 he became the cathedral precentor of Hamburg, and wrote largely church music there until his death in 1739.
(First performances in Hamburg, Theater am Gänsemarkt, unless stated otherwise)
- Basilius (Der königliche Schäfer oder Basilius in Arkadien) (probably Braunschweig 1693)
- Cephalus und Procris (Braunschweig 1694)
- Der geliebte Adonis (1697)
- Janus (Der bei dem allgemeinen Welt-Frieden von dem Großen Augustus geschlossene Tempel des Janus) (1698)
- Iphigenia (Die wunderbar errettete Iphigenia) (Hamburg,1699)
- Herkules und Hebe (Die Verbindung des großen Herkules mit der schönen Hebe) (1699)
- La forza della virtù oder Die Macht der Tugend (1700)
- Störtebeker und Jödge Michels (2 sections, 1701)
- Die sterbende Eurydice oder Orpheus (2 sections, 1702)
- Die verdammte Staat-Sucht, oder Der verführte Claudius (1703)
- Der gestürzte und wieder erhöhte Nebukadnezar, König zu Babylon(1704)
- Die römische Unruhe oder Die edelmütige Octavia (1705)
- Die kleinmütige Selbst-Mörderin Lucretia oder Die Staats-Torheit des Brutus (1705)
- Die neapolitanische Fischer-Empörung oder Masaniello furioso (1706)
- Der angenehme Betrug oder Der Carneval von Venedig (1707)
- La forza dell'amore oder Die von Paris entführte Helena (1709)
- Desiderius, König der Langobarden (1709)
- Der durch den Fall des großen Pompejus erhöhete Julius Caesar (1710)
- Der hochmütige, gestürzte und wieder erhabene Croesus (1710, revised edition 1730)
- L'inganno fedele oder Der getreue Betrug (1714)
- Fredegunda (1715)
- L'Amore verso la patria oder Der sterbende Cato (1715)
- Das zerstörte Troja oder Der durch den Tod Helenens versöhnte Achilles (1716)
- Die großmütige Tomyris (1717)
- Jobates und Bellerophon (1717)
- Ulysses (Copenhagen 1722)
- Bretislaus oder Die siegende Beständigkeit (1725)
- Der lächerliche Printz Jodelet (1726)
- Lucius Verus oder Die siegende Treue (1728)
- Der blutige und sterbende Jesus, Hamburg (1704), on words of Christian Friedrich Hunold - lost.
- Thränen unter dem Kreutze Jesu, Hamburg (1711); revised as Der zum Tode verurtheilte und gekreutzigte Jesus, MS in Berlin D-Bsb, excerpts in Seelige Erlösungs-Gedancken Hamburg (1715)
- Brockespassion. Hamburg (1712) MS in Berlin.
- Der siegende David. Hamburg (1717) MS in Berlin.
Now attributed to Friedrich Nicolaus Brauns (1637-1718)
- Markus-Passion Jesus Christus ist umb unsrer Missetät willen verwundt Hamburg 1707.
- ^ recording: Ihlenfeldt CPO
- ^ recording: Hammer, Naxos
- ^ Reinhard Keiser. Brockes Passion (Hamburg 1712). cpo 999852-2 1CD 2000. Kenneth Montgomery, Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra & Choir. Withdrawn because of licensing problems.
- ^ Edition from Edition Musica Poetica, edited by Cosimo Stawiarski (June 2007)
- ^ Recordings 1. Parthenia Barock. Brembeck. Christophorus 1993. 2. Capella Sancti Georgi, Musica Alta Ripa. Chrismon 2010