Composer Profile: Otto Nicolai, A Remarkable Story & One Masterpiece

By David Salazar

Composer Otto Nicolai, born on June 9, 1810, is not one of the famed composers of the opera world, but he did leave behind one noted masterwork and a unique story.

Nicolai was a child prodigy but suffered from a nasty divorce between his parents. He ran away from his parents at the age of 16, taking refuge with a senior legal official called August Adler. Adler sent him to Berlin at 17 to study with Carl Friedrich Zetter.

He managed a solid career throughout the 1830s and 40s. He was appointed Hofkapellmeister at the Berlin Staatsoper on May 9, 1849. Two days later, he died from a stroke; he was also elected a member of the Royal Prussian Academy of Arts on the same day of his death.

In sum, he left behind seven completed opera. His first work was “Rosmonda d’Inghilterra,” which premiered on Nov. 26, 1839. His final work was “Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor.”

Major Work

Nicolai’s most famous work is undoubtedly “Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor.” The work is the last of his operas and remains the most performed, remaining a fixture in the repertoire of Nicolai’s native Germany. The work’s overture often gets performances outside the context of the opera.

Watch and Listen

 Here is a production of his famed opera with Norman Foster, Colette Boky, Lucia Popp, Charles Igo Gorin, Mildred Miller, and Rosella Hightower.


Opera Wiki