Johann Adolph Hasse
Johann Adolph Hasse was an 18th-century German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

, singer and teacher of music. Immensely popular in his time, Hasse was best known for his prolific opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

tic output, though he also composed a considerable quantity of sacred music. Married to soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

 Faustina Bordoni
Faustina Bordoni
Faustina Bordoni was an Italian mezzo-soprano.-Early career:She was born in Venice and brought up under the protection of the aristocratic brother composers Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello. Her singing teacher was another composer, Michelangelo Gasparini...

 and a great friend of librettist Pietro Metastasio, whose libretti he frequently set, Hasse was a pivotal figure in the development of opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

and 18th-century music.

Hasse was born in Bergedorf
Bergedorf is the largest of the seven boroughs of Hamburg, Germany and a quarter within this borough. In 2006 the population of the borough was 118,942.-History:...

, near Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...


Early career

Hasse's career began in singing, when he joined the Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 Opera (his family, who were traditionally church musicians, came from near Hamburg) in 1718 as a tenor. In 1719 he obtained a singing post at the court of Brunswick
Braunschweig , is a city of 247,400 people, located in the federal-state of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located north of the Harz mountains at the farthest navigable point of the Oker river, which connects to the North Sea via the rivers Aller and Weser....

, where in 1721 his first opera, Antioco, was performed; Hasse himself sang in the production.
He is thought to have left Germany during 1722. During the 1720s he lived mostly in Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, dwelling there for six or seven years. In 1725 his serenata Antonio e Cleopatra, was performed at Naples; the principal roles were sung by Carlo Broschi, better known as Farinelli
Farinelli , was the stage name of Carlo Maria Broschi, celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera.- Early years :...

, and Vittoria Tesi
Vittoria Tesi
Vittoria Tesi was an Italian opera singer and music teacher of the 18th century. Her vocal range was that of a contralto....

. The success of this work not only earned Hasse many commissions from Naples's opera houses, but also, according to Quantz, brought him into contact with Alessandro Scarlatti
Alessandro Scarlatti
Alessandro Scarlatti was an Italian Baroque composer especially famous for his operas and chamber cantatas. He is considered the founder of the Neapolitan school of opera. He was the father of two other composers, Domenico Scarlatti and Pietro Filippo Scarlatti.-Life:Scarlatti was born in...

, who became his teacher and friend; Hasse also altered his style in several respects to reflect that of Scarlatti.

Hasse's popularity in Naples increased dramatically and for several years his workload kept him extremely busy. In this period he composed his only full opera buffa
Opera buffa
Opera buffa is a genre of opera. It was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas variously classified by their authors as ‘commedia in musica’, ‘commedia per musica’, ‘dramma bernesco’, ‘dramma comico’, ‘divertimento giocoso' etc...

, La sorella amante, in addition to several intermezzi and serenatas. He visited the Venetian
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 Carnival of 1730, where his opera Artaserse
Artaserse is the name of a number of Italian operas, all based on a text by Metastasio. Artaserse is the Italian form of the name of a Persian king, Artaxerxes....

was performed at the S Giovanni Grisostomo. Metastasio's libretto was heavily reworked for the occasion, and Farinelli took a leading role. Two of his arias from this opera he later performed every night for a decade for Philip V of Spain
Philip V of Spain
Philip V was King of Spain from 15 November 1700 to 15 January 1724, when he abdicated in favor of his son Louis, and from 6 September 1724, when he assumed the throne again upon his son's death, to his death.Before his reign, Philip occupied an exalted place in the royal family of France as a...


Dresden and Venice

In 1730 Hasse married Faustina Bordoni, and was also appointed Kapellmeister at the Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

 court, though he did not arrive at Dresden until July 1731; earlier in the year he had been active at Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, supervising a performance of his oratorio
An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias...

 Daniello at the court of the Habsburgs. Soon after the couple's arrival in Dresden Faustina performed before the court. In September Hasse's Cleofide (set to a highly adapted Metastasio
Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi, better known by his pseudonym of Metastasio, was an Italian poet and librettist, considered the most important writer of opera seria libretti.-Early life:...

 text) was given its premiere; it seems possible that J. S. Bach attended the performance; certainly C. P. E. Bach claimed that Hasse and his father had become good friends around this time.

In October Hasse left Dresden to direct premieres of his next operas at Turin
Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...

 and Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, and he also wrote music for the Venetian theatres at this time. Come the autumn of 1732 and Hasse was at Naples again, though he spent the winter at Venice where his Siroe was first performed in particularly lavish style. In February 1733 Augustus the Strong of Poland and Saxony
Augustus II the Strong
Frederick Augustus I or Augustus II the Strong was Elector of Saxony and King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania ....

, Hasse's early royal patron at Dresden, died. As the court went into a year of mourning Hasse was permitted to remain abroad. Many of his sacred works, composed for Venice's churches, date to this time.

For much of 1734 Hasse was at Dresden, but from 1735 until 1737 he was in Italy, largely at Naples. Faustina performed in the September 1735 premiere of Tito Vespasiano (another adapted Metastsio libretto) at Pesaro
Pesaro is a town and comune in the Italian region of the Marche, capital of the Pesaro e Urbino province, on the Adriatic. According to the 2007 census, its population was 92,206....

. Returning to the royal court in Dresden during 1737 Hasse composed 5 new operas, but when the court moved to Poland in the autumn of 1738 he and Faustina came back to Venice, where both of them were extremely popular. His next stay in Dresden was also his longest, between the first months of 1740 and January 1744. In this time he revised Artaserse, composing new arias for Faustina, and also wrote a couple original intermezzi. His general avoidance of comic opera seems to have been due to Faustina, who feared that the style of singing demanded by opera buffa would damage her voice.

Dresden: 1744–63

Between the winter of 1744 and late summer 1745, Hasse was in Italy, but then returned to Dresden for a year. Frederick the Great, a keen flute player visited the court in December 1745, and it is likely that many of Hasse's flute sonatas and concertos that date to this time were written for Frederick. The King of Prussia was also present at a performance of one of Hasse's Te Deums, and himself ordered a performance of the composer's opera Arminio. Soon after Hasse visited Venice and Munich, returning to Dresden in June 1747 to stage his opera La spartana generosa, performed to celebrate multiple royal weddings at this time. Also at this time the hierarchy at Dresden was restructured; Nicola Porpora
Nicola Porpora
Nicola Porpora was an Italian composer of Baroque operas and teacher of singing, whose most famous singing student was the castrato Farinelli. One of his other students was composer Matteo Capranica.-Biography:Porpora was born in Naples...

 was named Kapellmeister, while Hasse himself was promoted to Oberkapellmeister.

In 1748 Hasse performed two of his operas Ezio and Artaserse in Bayreuth in the half finished Markgräfliches Opernhaus
Markgräfliches Opernhaus
The Margravial Opera House or Margrave's Opera House is a Baroque opera house in the town of Bayreuth in Germany. It is one of Europe's few surviving theatres of the period and has been extensively restored. It was built between 1744 and 1748 by Joseph Saint-Pierre; the interior was designed by...

, because of the marriage of Elisabeth Fredericka Sophie of Brandenburg-Bayreuth
Elisabeth Fredericka Sophie of Brandenburg-Bayreuth
Margravine Elisabeth Fredericka Sophie of Brandenburg-Bayreuth , was a German princess member of the House of Hohenzollern and by marriage Duchess of Württemberg.-Early life:...

, the daughter of Wilhelmine of Bayreuth
Wilhelmine of Bayreuth
Princess Wilhelmine of Prussia was a German noblewoman and composer. She was the eldest daughter of Frederick William I of Prussia and Sophia Dorothea of Hanover. In 1731, she married Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth...

. The marriage of princess Maria Josepha of Saxony to the French Dauphin gave Hasse the opportunity to journey to Paris in the summer of 1750, where his Didone abbandonata was performed.

The 1751 Carnival in Dresden saw the retirement of Faustina from operatic performance. He continued to produce new operas throughout the decade, including a setting of Metastasio's Il re pastore, a text later used by Mozart. In 1756 the Seven Years War compelled the court at Dresden to move to Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, though Hasse himself lived mostly in Italy, travelling to Poland solely to supervise productions of his operas, if at all. In the autumn of 1760 he moved to Vienna, where he stayed for the next two years, returning to Dresden in 1763 to find much his home destroyed and the musical apparatus of the court opera wrecked. Hasse's main patron at Dresden, king Augustus III of Poland and Saxony
Augustus III of Poland
Augustus III, known as the Saxon ; ; also Prince-elector Friedrich August II was the Elector of Saxony in 1733-1763, as Frederick Augustus II , King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1734-1763.-Biography:Augustus was the only legitimate son of Augustus II the Strong, Imperial Prince-Elector...

 died soon after and his successor, who also died quickly, deemed elaborate musical events at the court superfluous. Hasse and Faustina were paid two years's salary but given no pension.

Vienna and Venice: last years

In 1764 Hasse travelled to Vienna, where the coronation of Joseph II
Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor
Joseph II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790. He was the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I...

 was marked by a performance of his festa teatrale
Festa teatrale
The term festa teatrale refers to a genre of drama, and of opera in particular. The genre cannot be rigidly defined, and in any case feste teatrali tend to be split into two different sets: feste teatrali divided by acts are operas, while works in this genre performed without division, or merely...

Egeria, again set to a libretto by Metastasio. For the most part, he remained at Vienna until 1773. Mozart was present at a performance of his Partenope in September 1767. Most of his operas composed during this period were also successfully produced at Naples. He was the favourite of Maria Theresa
Maria Theresa of Austria
Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma...

, and it can be argued that he took up the job of de facto court Kapellmeister. With the premiere of Piramo e Tisbe
Piramo e Tisbe
Piramo e Tisbe is an opera in two acts, described by its composer as an intermezzo tragico, by Johann Adolf Hasse to a libretto by Marco Coltellini....

(September 1768) Hasse had intended to retire from opera but was compelled by Maria Theresa to compose a further work, Ruggiero (1771), again set to a Metastasian libretto.

At this time operatic style was undergoing significant change, and the model of opera seria that Hasse and Metastasio had settled found itself assailed by the threat of the reforms of Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck was an opera composer of the early classical period. After many years at the Habsburg court at Vienna, Gluck brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices that many intellectuals had been campaigning for over the years...

 and Ranieri de' Calzabigi
Ranieri de' Calzabigi
Ranieri de' Calzabigi was an Italian poet and librettist, most famous for his collaboration with the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck on his "reform" operas....

, as laid down in the music and libretto for Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice is an opera composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck based on the myth of Orpheus, set to a libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi. It belongs to the genre of the azione teatrale, meaning an opera on a mythological subject with choruses and dancing...

. Charles Burney
Charles Burney
Charles Burney FRS was an English music historian and father of authors Frances Burney and Sarah Burney.-Life and career:...

, visiting Vienna in 1773, reported on the debate.
Finding his music under siege from an avant-garde surge in a new direction, Hasse left Vienna in 1773 and spent the final ten years of his life in Venice, teaching and composing sacred works. Faustina died in November 1781, and Hasse himself, after a long period of suffering from arthritis, just over 2 years later. He was almost completely ignored after his death, until F. S. Kandler paid for his gravestone in Venice, where he is buried, and authored a biography of Hasse in 1820.

Relationship with Metastasio

Hasse's friendship with Metastasio, and his appreciation of the art form the librettist had created, increased over the years. The early Metastasio texts he set were all greatly altered for the purpose, but Frederick the Great and Francesco Algarotti
Francesco Algarotti
Count Francesco Algarotti was an Italian philosopher and art critic.He also completed engravings.He was born in Venice to a rich merchant. He studied at Rome for a year, and then Bologna, he studied natural sciences and mathematics...

 both exerted influence in order to make Hasse pay greater respect to Metastasio's works. In the early 1740s he began setting new Metastasian libretti unadapted, and his personal relations with the librettist also improved significantly at around this time. In one of his letters, dated to March 1744, Metastasio made the following comments:
In the following years Hasse reset his earlier works based on Metastasio's texts, this time paying great attention to the poet's original intention, and during the 1760s, as Metastasio wrote new texts, Hasse was, as a general rules, the first composer to set them. Burney left the following note:

Style and reputation

Despite G. B. Mancini claiming that Hasse was the padre della musica, and despite the composer's massive popularity as a figure at the very forefront of 18th-century serious Italian opera, after his death Hasse's reputation vastly declined and his music lay mostly unperformed (with the exception of some of his sacred works, which were revived now and again in Germany). In particular, his operas sank without trace and revival only begun as the 20th century approached its end: Gluck's reforms took opera away from Hasse's style and Metastasio's Arcadian ideals to a new direction from which it would not return.

In his day, Hasse's style was noted primarily for his lyricism and sense of melody. Burney put it this way:
Careful choice of key was also a crucial factor in Hasse's style, with certain emotions usually marked out by certain key choices. Amorous feelings were expressed by A, for instance, while for expressions of aristocratic nobility Hasse used C and B flat; on the other hand, his supernatural and fear-inducing music usually went into the keys of C and F minor. Most of his arias begin in the major, switching only to minor for the B section before returning to major for the da capo. As his career developed his arias grew much longer but a lyrical sense was still his overriding target.

Further reading

  • F. L. Millner: ‘Hasse and London’s Opera of the Nobility
    Opera of the Nobility
    The Opera of the Nobility was an opera company set up and funded in 1733 by a group of nobles opposed to George II of England, in order to rival the Second Royal Academy of Music company under Handel .Nicola Porpora was invited to be its musical director and Owen Swiny considered as its talent scout...

    ’, MR, xxxv (1974), 240–46
  • A. Yorke-Long: Music at Court (London, 1954)
  • S. Hansell: ‘Sacred Music at the Incurabili in Venice at the Time of J. A. Hasse’, JAMS, xxiii (1970), 282–301, 505–21
  • F. Degrada: ‘Aspetti gluckiani nell’ultimo Hasse’, Chigiana, xxix–xxx (1975), 309–29
  • D. Heartz: ‘Hasse, Galuppi and Metastasio’, Venezia e il melodramma nel settecento: Venice 1973–5, i, 309–39
  • R. Strohm: Essays on Handel and Italian Opera (Cambridge, 1985)
  • Imme Tempke: Mozart und der "Musick-Vatter" Hasse. In: Lichtwark-Heft Nr. 71. Verlag HB-Werbung, Hamburg-Bergedorf, 2006. .
  • Imme Tempke: Hasses Musikausbildung in Hamburg. In: Lichtwark-Heft Nr. 67. Verlag HB-Werbung, Hamburg-Bergedorf, 2002. .

External links

  • "Dresden in the time of Zelenka and Hasse" by Brian Robins
    Brian Robins
    Brian Robins was born in Cheltenham, England, but spent most of his early life in Bournemouth. An early interest in music took him into the record industry, by which time he had realised that he had no future as a performer. This, coupled with an interest in history, led him to undertake the...

  • More modern assessment of Hasse
  • The Hasse Project
  • Free scores at the Mutopia Project
    Mutopia project
    The Mutopia Project is a volunteer-run effort to create a library of free content sheet music, in a way similar to Project Gutenberg's library of public domain books.The music is reproduced from old scores that are out of copyright...

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