Frederick II, King of Prussia (opera) [Friedrich II; Frederick the Great]
- E. Eugene Helm
[Friedrich II; Frederick the Great]
(b Berlin, Jan 24, 1712; d Potsdam, Aug 17, 1786). German monarch and patron of the arts . His father Friedrich Wilhelm I, violently opposed his artistic leanings; when Frederick finally acceded to the throne on 31 May 1740 he plunged into social and political reforms, military conquest and the rehabilitation of Prussian arts and letters, all at once. He was determined to bring into his own precincts the same operatic magnificence he had witnessed 12 years earlier at Dresden in a production of Hasse’s Cleofide. C. H. Graun, who had been attached to his half-clandestine musical establishment since 1735, was immediately dispatched to Italy to employ singers (despite complaints, notably from Mattheson in Hamburg, about Frederick’s neglect of German musicians). Other agents, such as Voltaire and Algarotti (both of whom were Frederick’s established confidants and correspondents), were commissioned to engage actors and dancers in Paris and more singers from Italy, along with machinists, costumiers and librettists. The royal architect G. W. von Knobelsdorf was ordered to begin work on a monumental opera house, while opera flourished in whatever temporary quarters were available....