For the racehorse, see Singspiel (horse).
Singspiel ("song-play") (plural Singspiele) is a form of German-language music drama, regarded as a genre of opera. It is characterized by spoken dialogue, sometimes performed over music, interspersed with ensembles, popular songs, ballads and arias (which were often folk-like and strophic in nature).
OriginsThe first Singspiele were probably translations of English ballad operas from the late 18th century. In 1736 the Prussian ambassador to England commissioned a translation of the ballad opera The Devil to Pay. This was successfully performed in the 1740s in Hamburg and Leipzig. A further version of this was made by Johann Hiller and C. F. Weisse in 1766, the first of a string of such collaborations which led to them being called 'the fathers of the German Singspiel'.
French comic operas (Opéra comique) were also frequently transcribed into the German, as well. Singspiele were considered popular entertainment, and were usually performed by traveling troupes, rather than by established companies within metropolitan centers.
Singspiel plots are generally comic or romantic in nature, and frequently include elements of magic, fantastical creatures, and comically exaggerated characterizations of good and evil.
Development of the SingspielWhile tragedy was a less frequent motif, it should be noted that most of the Singspiele that are still part of the modern operatic canon were those written on more serious themes, such as Ludwig van Beethoven's Fidelio, or Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart touched the genre under an imperial commission for the New National Theatre in Vienna with Die Entführung aus dem Serail in 1782. He continued to write in the genre, with works such as Zaide, Der Schauspieldirektor and Die Zauberflöte, although some argue that because the latter incorporates a significant number of elements from various other musical and dramatic genres, it is a work that defies such a clear-cut classification.
Singspiel is considered the predecessor of German romantic opera, and many of the genre’s composers, such as Beethoven and Weber, paved the way to the more complex operatic style associated with Wagner, Richard Strauss and others. As a result of this evolution, however, Singspiel itself had become basically obsolete by the end of the 19th century. More directly it may be seen as the ancestor of the operettas of von Suppé, Johann Strauss II and their successors.
- Barbara Russano Hanning, Donald Jay Grout: Concise History of Western Music, W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.
- Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Singspiel.
singspiel in Bulgarian: Зингшпил
singspiel in German: Singspiel
singspiel in Spanish: Singspiel
singspiel in French: Singspiel
singspiel in Italian: Singspiel
singspiel in Hebrew: זינגשפיל
singspiel in Georgian: ზინგშპილი
singspiel in Dutch: Singspiel
singspiel in Japanese: ジングシュピール
singspiel in Russian: Зингшпиль
singspiel in Finnish: Singspiel
singspiel in Chinese: 歌唱剧