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Reinhard Keiser

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Reinhard Keiser (January 9, 1674–September 12, 1739) was a popular German opera composer based in Hamburg. He wrote over a hundred operas, and in 1745 Johann Adolph Scheibe considered him an equal to Johann Kuhnau, George Frideric Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann (also related to the Hamburg Opera), but his work was largely forgotten for many decades.

He was born in Teuchern (in present Saxony-Anhalt), son of the organist and teacher Gottfried Keiser (born about 1650), and educated by other organists in the town and then from 11 at the Thomas School in Leipzig, where his teachers included Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau, direct predecessors of Johann Sebastian Bach.

In 1694, he became court-composer to the duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, though he had probably come to the court already as early as 1692 to study its renowned operas, which had been going on since 1691, when the city had built a 1200-seater opera-house. Keiser put on his first opera Procris und Cephalus there and, the same year, his opera Basilius was put on at Hamburg and, as the musicologist Johann Mattheson noted, “received with great success and applause.”

This was a fruitful period for him - composing not only operas, but arias, duets, cantatas, sérénades, church music and big oratorios, background music - all for the city’s use.

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