300-year old opera makes American premiere

King Croesus
British tenor Paul Nilon sings the title role in the Minnesota Opera production of "The Fortunes of King Croesus."
Photo by Michal Daniel

When German baroque composer Reinhard Keiser died, he was eulogized as the greatest opera composer in the world.

His reputation quickly faded, but the Minnesota Opera is helping to rescue Keiser from complete obscurity with the American premiere of his opera, "The Fortunes of King Croesus."

Of the 60 operas Keiser wrote, "King Croesus" was the most successful. It was performed for 20 years following its first production in Hamburg in 1711. This happened in a time when music just 25 years old was considered ancient.

During his lifetime, Keiser was ranked with Georg Telemann and Domenico Scarlatti as one of the best composers of the day. A young man named George Frederick Handel played violin in Keiser's orchestra, and was inflenced by his operas.

The Minnesota Opera's production of "The Fortunes of King Croesus" runs through March 9 at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul. British conductor and baroque expert Harry Bicket leads the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in the production.

In a conversation with Minnesota Public Radio's John Birge, Bicket discusses Kaiser's tuneful, intoxicating music and the composer's reputation as a wine-soaked playboy.

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