Hi Friends, this post, or at least a version of it, was originally written to mark Oktoberfest 2017 which seemed like a perfect time to celebrate German female playwrights. And since I think more people should know Helmina Von Chézy. In case you’re like me a few weeks ago and don’t know her, let me introduce you to one of the country’s earlier writers: Helmina Von Chézy.
A small side note: for the purposes of this MicroBiog, I’m defining Germany as any of the then independent countries and territories that now make up modern Germany. As you were.
💜 She was the great-granddaughter of the first German woman to earn a living through her writing, the poet Anna Louisa Karsch, and debuted (in the writerly sense) at the age of 14!
💚 At 16 she got married.
💜 And at 17, divorced.
💚 Was strongly political, protesting against field conditions during the Napoleonic wars and the inhumanity of working conditions in saltworks as well as encouraging fellow writers to fight for democracy.
💜 While living in Paris she worked as a journalist, running her own journal (‘Französische Miszellen’) publishing views which landed her in trouble with the censors.
💚 ‘Rosamunde’ premiered at the Theater an der Wien in 1823 with music composed by Franz Schubert. It ran for two performances and has since been lost. Which is a shame, because I’d love to see whether the criticism was merit or misogyny.
💜 In the same year Von Chézy wrote the libretto to Carl Maria von Weber’s Opera ‘Euryanthe’.
💚 She returned to Germany in 1810, after the death of her second husband.
Von Chézy wasn’t the first female German playwright, she was preceded by Hrosvitha and Sibylle Ursula von Braunschweig-Lünebur, nor the most successful. What she did achieve was to have productions produced on professional stages while collaborating with leading composers at a time when there were very few other German women writing for the stage.
Regardless of how history views her, that’s an achievement in my mind.
🖼: Wilhelm Hensel
HER FULL STATS: Born Wilhelmine Christiane von Klencke on 26th January, 1783 in Berlin, Germany.
Died on 28th February, 1856 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Want to hear? I’ve got you covered, with a large dollop of thanks to Spotify, of course.
If you’ve liked what you’ve read, please consider pinning the graphic below to one of your boards on Pinterest. Let’s raise the profile of these amazing women. Together.