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Otto Nicolai

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Carl Otto Ehrenfried Nicolai (June 9, 1810 – May 11, 1849) was a German composer, conductor, and founder of the Vienna Philharmonic. Nicolai is best known for his operatic version of Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor (Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor). In addition to five operas, Nicolai composed lieder, works for orchestra, chorus, ensemble, and solo instruments.

Nicolai, a child prodigy, was born in Königsberg Germany. While still a youth he ran away from his home and parents and secured himself as a student of Carl Friedrich Zelter in Berlin. After initial successes in Germany, including his first Symphony (1831) and public concerts, he became musician to the Prussian Embassy in Rome. During the early 1840s he established himself as a major figure in the concert life of Vienna. In 1844 he was offered the position, vacated by Felix Mendelssohn, of Kapellmeister at the Berlin Cathedral; but he did not reestablish himself in Berlin until the last year of his life. On 9 March 1849, two months after the premiere of The Merry Wives, and only two days after his appointment as Hof Kapellmeister at the Berlin Staatsoper, he collapsed and died from a stroke. On the very same day of his death, he was elected a member of the Prussian Royal Academy of Arts.

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