(b Vienna, 30 May 1901; d Berlin, 8 Oct 1975). Austrian director. He studied acting with Ernst Arndt at the Burgtheater, Vienna (1921–3), made his acting début in Lübeck in 1923 and in 1925 became dramatic adviser and director in Beuthen (now Bytom), Silesia. In 1927 he was appointed chief opera and drama director at the Stadttheater, Basle; from 1929 to 1932 he worked as an actor in Freiburg, where he was also dramatic adviser and director. He became chief director of the Cologne Opera in 1932 and in 1934 took a similar post in Frankfurt; excluded from the Reichstheaterkammer in 1936, he was able to continue working only by special permission. From then on his productions (Der Zigeunerbaron, Berlin, 1939; Falstaff, Aachen, 1941; Figaro, Salzburg Festival, 1942) broke away increasingly from conventional ‘singers’ opera’ as he tried out his own method of ‘realistic’ music theatre. During World War II he worked mainly as a drama director (1938–40 in Zürich, 1940–44 at the Schillertheater, Berlin) until he was enlisted (1944–5).
Immediately after the war Felsenstein directed Offenbach’s La vie parisienne at the Hebbeltheater, Berlin, conceiving it as a programmatic plea for popular music drama based on the traditions of opéra comique. In 1947 he was appointed director of the Komische Oper in East Berlin and was able to develop his concepts consistently and to incorporate them in a long series that subsequently became internationally acclaimed as model productions. He continued to work in the Federal Republic of Germany and abroad, and made operatic and musical films as well as fulfilling assignments in drama teaching. His pupils included Götz Friedrich and Joachim Herz.
To Felsenstein ‘realistic music theatre’ meant using music to create drama so that the phrase became more than a socialist artistic doctrine. He wrote that music must be exclusively subject to the laws of the theatre, serving solely the dramatic action and its ‘historic reality’. Accordingly, all his productions for the Komische Oper aimed to ‘make the music and singing on the stage a credible, convincing, authentic and indispensable means of human expression’: the singer had to convince the audience that his part could be communicated only in song.
Felsenstein and his assistants had a strong sense of authenticity; texts were sometimes thoroughly re-edited in an attempt to reconstruct the original. The result was a dramatically consistent conception of the production which mediated between the composer’s intentions and the ‘associative ability of a contemporary audience’. Not only was the dramatic situation emphasized, but also the historical, artistic, social and political background.
‘Partnerschaft mit dem Publikum’, Festschrift 1817–1967 Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Wien (Vienna, 1967)
with G. Friedrich and J. Herz: Musiktheater: Beiträge zur Methodik und zu Inszenierungs-Konzeptionen, ed. S. Stompor (Leipzig, 1970, 2/1976)
Theater muss immer etwas totales sein (Berlin, 1986)
W.Ott and G.Friedrich, eds.: Die Komische Oper 1947–1954 (Berlin, 1954)
R.Münz: Untersuchungen zum realistischen Musiktheater Walter Felsensteins (diss., Berlin U., 1964)
G.Friedrich: Walter Felsenstein: Weg und Werk (Berlin, 1967)
P.P.Fuchs, ed.: The Music Theatre of Walter Felsenstein (New York, 1975, 2/1991) [incl. articles etc. by Felsenstein]
D.Kranz: Gespräche mit Felsenstein (Berlin, 1976)
Felsztyna, Sebastian z.
SeeSebastian z Felsztyna.
(b Drayton, Shropshire, 1715; d Hereford, 6 Dec 1769). English clergyman, organist, harpsichordist and composer. He was the son of George Felton, a clerk, and was educated at Manchester Grammar School and St John's College, Cambridge (BA, 1738; MA, 1743). He married Anna, daughter of the Rev. Egerton Leigh, by whom he had a daughter. Felton was ordained priest by the Bishop of Hereford on 11 August 1742, became a vicar-choral and sub-chanter of the cathedral on 3 February 1743, and minor canon in 1760. In 1769 he was made chaplain to the Princess Augusta, widow of the Prince of Wales, and in the same year he was appointed custos of the College of Vicars Choral at Hereford. From 1744 he held various parochial appointments in Herefordshire. He was buried in the Lady Chapel at Hereford Cathedral: the inscription on his gravestone states that he died at the age of 54 and was ‘multiplici doctrina eruditus, rerum musicarum peritissimus’.
Felton was a steward at the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford in 1744 and in Gloucester in 1745; and his name is on the list of subscribers to Thomas Chilcot's Twelve English Songs (1744). He seems to have enjoyed wide popularity as a performer on the harpsichord and organ. Burney, who considered Felton a better performer than composer, recollected hearing in his youth ‘the celebrated Mr Felton’ play at Shrewsbury, and wrote in his History of his ‘neat finger for common divisions and the rapid multiplication of notes’. In his Account of the Musical Performances … in Commemoration of Handel (London, 1785/R) he related an anecdote about Felton's endeavours to persuade Handel to subscribe to his op.2 concertos through the violinist Abraham Brown; Handel started up angrily and said: ‘A parson make concerto? Why he no make sarmon?’. Handel's name did, however, appear on the subscription list to Felton's op.1 concertos. Felton is chiefly known as a prolific composer of organ and harpsichord concertos; Burney pronounced that he ‘produced two concertos out of three sets that were thought worthy of playing in London’. Despite this, Felton's concertos were widely acquired by music society libraries and private collectors, and his music frequently appeared in 18th-century domestic manuscript anthologies (see Harley).
Felton had a natural ability for devising bold, powerful thematic material, but his keyboard skills tempted him to include an excessive amount of passage-work. The ‘Andante with variations’ of the third concerto in op.1 achieved wide popularity as ‘Felton's Gavot’ or ‘Farewell Manchester’ (the latter title probably dating from December 1745, when it was supposedly played as the troops of the Young Pretender left Manchester). It is also said to have been played at the execution, in 1746, of Jemmy Dawson, the Manchester Jacobite, who was a contemporary of Felton's at St John's College, Cambridge (this legend may originate in the fact that a Felton concerto was played at the Manchester subscription concerts, which were notoriously Jacobite, in 1744). In about 1748 the tune was printed as Fill the Glass, a song for three voices. Burney said that it appeared in Ciampi's opera Bertoldo, produced at Covent Garden in 1762. The tune remained popular until the middle of the 19th century.
all published in London
Six Concerto's, org/hpd, insts (1744)
Six Concerto's, org/hpd, insts (1747)
Fill the glass (Farewell Manchester, or Felton's Gavot), song, 3vv (c1748) [adapted from Andante of op.1 no.3]
Eight Suits of Easy Lessons, hpd (1752)
Six Concerto's, org/hpd, insts (1752)
Six Concerto's, org/hpd, insts (c1755)
Eight Suits of Easy Lessons, hpd (1757)
Eight Concerto's, org/hpd, insts (1762)
D.Lysons: History of the Origin and Progress of the Meeting of the Three Choirs of Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford (Gloucester, 1812)
C.L.Cudworth: ‘The English Organ Concerto’, The Score, no.8 (1953), 51–60
T.Rishton: ‘The Eighteenth-Century British Keyboard Concerto after Handel’, Aspects of Keyboard Music: Essays in Honour of Susi Jeans, ed. R. Judd (Oxford, 1992)
J.Harley: British Harpsichord Music (Aldershot, 1992–4)