Bintel Blog

From Papa Haydn to Tateh Haydn?

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

Among the many commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the death of composer Joseph Haydn is a compelling new study from Cambridge University Press, “Haydn’s Jews: Representation and Reception on the Operatic Stage” by Caryl Clark, a University of Toronto musicologist. Ms. Clark points out that in Eisenstadt, Austria, the palace of the Eszterházy family, Haydn’s longtime employers, is located “immediately adjacent” to the Jewish ghetto: “Haydn would have seen Jews living behind the chained gates of their crowded ghettos and conducting business on the nearby streets.”

Ms. Clark further postulates that his 1768 comic opera “Lo speziale” (The Apothecary ) features Sempronio, the apothecary of the title, who has many elements of contemporary stage caricatures of Jews. The opera’s libretto, by playwright Carlo Goldoni, has “many coded depictions of the apothecary as a Jewish caricature…to which Haydn responded in his musical setting.”

Intriguingly, in the late 19th century Gustav Mahler born into an Ashkenazi Jewish family in Bohemia, played a key role in reviving “Lo speziale” in a German-language staging as “Der Apotheker,” and Clark posits that Mahler’s intense attraction to this work may be due in part to the work’s subliminal Jewish resonances. Stressing that unlike Wagner’s antisemitic musical portraits of Jews as villains like Beckmesser in his opera “Die Meistersinger,” Haydn was “never known to have uttered hateful remarks about Jews, and certainly never penned an antisemitic screed, as Wagner did.” This relative tolerance, unusual for his day, provides another reason for treasuring Haydn, whose nickname “Papa” might be Yiddished to “Tateh” as acknowledgment of his endearing Mentshlekhkeyt.

Watch Haydn’s “Lo speziale” featuring the crypto-Jewish apothecary Sempronio, below.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Haydn

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.