Frederick’s Montezuma: Power and Meaning in the Prussian Court Opera opens in Berlin


BERLIN.- The exhibition centres around the ‘tragedy for music’, Montezuma, composed in 1755 by Carl Heinrich Graun and performed for the first time in the royal opera house on Unter den Linden. Frederick the Great personally wrote the opera’s libretto. On 6th January 1755 a very special premiere took place in the Roy-al Opera House Unter den Linden: the opera Montezuma, a work for which King Frederick II had himself drafted the libretto. The Kapellmeister at the court, Carl Heinrich Graun, had set the story of the conquest of Mexico to music. The opera tells how the Spanish conquistadores overcome the Aztec emperor Montezuma by deceit and subsequently take him captive. Although Montezuma’s heroic fiancée plans to rescue him, all efforts to secure a peaceful outcome fail: the opera ends with Montezuma’s downfall and a gruesome slaughter of the Aztecs by the Spanish. In this manner, the royal librettist conveys