Haydn’s Jews

HAYDN’S JEWS: Representation and Reception on the Operatic Stage. By Caryl Clark, Cambridge University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-5214-5547-3

CARYL CLARK’S monograph on the subject of possible Jewish characterizations in Haydn’s music focuses on his opera Lo Speziale (The Apothecary), composed in 1768 to a libretto by the Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni and first performed at the Esterhazy court for Haydn’s employer, the music-loving Prince Nikolaus I. The book’s principal contention is that the title character of this work, who is never identified as Jewish,  nevertheless is an encoded representation of the typical “stage Jew” of the time, and would have been recognized as such by contemporary audiences.  The argument for this reading is preceded by discussions of the Jewish communities in Haydn’s immediate environments in Vienna, Eisenstadt, and the Eszterháza estate, a discussion of stage Jews and previous characterizations of explicit Jewish characters in opera (citing my own work on Reinhard Keiser’s operas for the Hamburg stage in the early 18th century), a previous Singspiel in which Haydn seems to have portrayed a Jewish stereotype (but with no surviving music), and a discussion of a Haydn mass putatively aimed at Jews undergoing conversion to Catholicism.

The background material provided on the Jewish communities of the time is historically valuable as an overview, although the point it is making—Haydn’s proximity to various Jewish communities—seems incontrovertible but rather besides the main point.  It does confirm that Haydn had some experience with actual Jewish communities (that is, he must have had some interaction with Jews), but how that manifested in actual music remained to be demonstrated.  Further, I would agree that Haydn was probably familiar with the Jewish characters presented in the spoken theater of the time.

Haydn’s first Singspiel, Der krumme Teufel (The Crooked Devil, no music survives) presents the character Asmodeus, a hobbled demon walking on crutches, as a possible Jewish stereotype.  The story ultimately derives from an early 17th-century Spanish play, and is traced through an early 18th-century French novel, further through numerous Viennese stage adaptations, to Haydn’s Singspiel, first performed in 1753.  Asmodeus as a recurring character is derived from Jewish legend (though of Persian origin), but how Haydn set music for this character and whether he himself considered him to represent a Jewish stereotype is unknown. The actor who played the title character in the initial performances, Joseph Felix Kurz (known as Bernardon), had played Jewish characters in other Viennese comedies; hence her point that he probably imbued Asmodeus with some type of Jewish characterization is plausible. On the whole, however, it appears that Jewish characters in the 18th century were generally identified clearly as Jews, and not presented as some type of secretly encoded stereotype (there are not many identifiable Jews in 18th-century operas apart from Hamburg opera in the early 18th century).

Clark devotes an extensive chapter to Haydn’s masses. With an emphasis on the Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo (ca. 1773-76), named for St. John of God, the 16th-century founder of the Catholic monastic order known in Austria as the Barmherziger Brüder (the Hospitaller Brothers), Clark attempts to show that, although the occasion for which Haydn composed this mass is unknown, it was composed for the Barmherziger Brüder, who were interested in converting Jews as part of their mission (she states that the founder of the Brüder, John of God, was a converso, but cites the only source [Encyclopedia Britannica 2003 CD ROM edition, s.v. “Spain”] that apparently suggests this).  At any rate, the interest here lies principally with the omission of a line from the Credo, “Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum,” which she suggests was omitted to make the Mass more acceptable to Jews in the process of conversion.  But this argument seems quite flawed.  For one thing, this is hardly the only line in the Mass ordinary that Jews would find objectionable.  More striking, this line is missing from the Credos of three other Haydn’s masses, including the late Theresienmesse.  No convincing explanation is offered that explains all of these omissions, and another attempt to connect the Missa brevis to the Jews (equating the telescoping of some of the text to “Mauscheln,” a pejorative reference to speaking with a Yiddish inflection whose etymology derives from the Yiddish pronunciation of the name “Moshe”), seems distinctly odd.

Turning to the principal argument of the book—that the character Sempronio, the apothecary in Lo Speziale, is meant to embody a stereotype of a Jew that would be recognizable by audiences of the time—we are on no firmer ground, neither with Goldoni’s libretto nor with Haydn’s music.  The putative Jewish characteristics are Sempronio’s high voice, his lechery to the point of near incest, his miserliness and greed, his appearance, his music, and his ineptitude in his profession. Clark’s attempt to link Sempronio’s name with the “Eternal Jew” (sempre) seems forced.  Onomatopoeic, repetitive text is linked with attempts in other music of the 17th and 18th centuries to mock synagogue singing and Hebrew, though in those cases the context and effect is rather different.  The young female character, Grilletta, is Sempronio’s ward, and not his “daughter” in any sense; yet his attempts to marry her are marked in the discussion as examples of incest, an indication of what was viewed as the sexual perversion of the Jew.

Clark notes that although Goldoni intended Sempronio to be a baritone, Haydn set the part for a tenor, putting the voice into a high range that she considers to mark the “feminized” voice of the Jew:  “The aberrant, feminized tenor voice, displayed through the use of the extreme high register, falsetto, howling, and screaming, all point to the fantasizing, hyper-sexualized Jew” (118).  Haydn, though, had only four singers at his disposal for the opera:  two tenors, a soprano, and a mezzo-soprano, and so it appears that he really had no other choice.   The use of oboes, seen here as a marker of Orientalism, is, of course, a commonplace, as the oboe was the predominant woodwind instrument in the 18th century.  Clark goes on to Sempronio’s clothing, focusing on his wig (ubiquitous at the time), which she sees as standing in for circumcision:

The wig was a marker of the law maker and physician, but as a detachable body part it was also an index of displacement associated with the anxiety of loss.  By replacing the beard, this black wig, along with its size and length, stands in for the phallus, which here is ‘uncut’, signaling the anxiety associated with circumcision. (119)

Clark ultimately returns to invoking “Mauscheln” in connection with the marriage contract scene.  Yet even here, the slightly garbled language (syllables detached from longer words) really does not seem to reflect Mauscheln—and, at any rate, the text itself is Goldoni’s and hence is less likely to resemble Yiddish-inflected speech on its own.  Furthermore, the text Clark identifies as Mauscheln emanates from other characters, not Sempronio (128).

The book concludes with an extended account of Gustav Mahler and Robert Hirschfeld’s revival of the opera in 1895 as Der Apotheker.  Here, though, there really is no convincing evidence that either of them (both born Jewish) saw the title character as any kind of Jewish characterization.

Interestingly, the book concludes with an apologia in which Clark addresses possible skepticism on the part of her readers, but in which she maintains that the evidence in Lo Speziale taken as a whole is overwhelming (“…abundant musical evidence survives to support my reading of Haydn’s Judaizing of the apothecary; indeed, an abundance of textual, dramatic, vocal, and performative evidence across two centuries has here been marshalled.”) (212).  Unfortunately, none of the presented evidence is compelling.  This is not to say that the book does not contain a wealth of fascinating historical information (it does), but that in the end it fails to make its case.

Jeanne Swack, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Cabrillo Festival 2020

CABRILLO FESTIVAL of Contemporary Music Announces its 58th Season

The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, America’s longest running festival of new orchestral music, celebrates its 58th season July 26 – August 9, 2020, with a remarkable season of timely, topical, and thought-provoking new works.

Season highlights include three world premiere commissions; the orchestral premiere of Jake Heggie’s Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope with a reprise by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke; two works commemorating the centenary of women’s suffrage in America; two contemporary homages to Beethoven’s 250th anniversary; and a posthumous tribute to beloved composer Christopher Rouse

Led by 2020 Grammy Award-winning Music Director and Conductor Cristian Măcelaru (above), the Cabrillo Festival is all about “music of our time, for our time.” The Festival is proud to offer composers a haven to present contemporary music that speaks to the world around us, bringing together a community of artists and audiences to experience the creative process. While this year’s Festival reflects on the deep divisions in our nation, it is also infused with hope for change, transformation, and peace. The Festival’s 58th season welcomes thirteen resident composers, a stunning roster of soloists, three world premiere commissions, and eight West Coast premieres.

This year’s composers in residence are Mason Bates, Dan Caputo, Stacy Garrop, John Harbison, Jake Heggie, Pierre Jalbert, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Paola Prestini, Kevin Puts, Andrea Reinkemeyer, Iván Enrique Rodríguez, Sean Shepherd, and Gregory Smith.

Guest Artists include Katherine Needleman (oboe); Benjamin Beilman (violin); Sasha Cooke (mezzo-soprano); Gregory Smith (narrator); Quartet San Francisco; Lara Downes (piano); and Stewart Goodyear (piano).

Among this year’s highlights are: the final performance in an expansive Bay Area collaboration commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz––the world premiere of the full orchestral version of Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheers’ Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope; two contemporary homages to Beethoven’s 250th anniversary (by Pierre Jalbert and Joan Tower); two works commemorating women’s suffrage and the centenary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (by Stacy Garrop and Paola Prestini); and a posthumous tribute to beloved composer and longtime Cabrillo friend, Christopher Rouse, who died in September 2019.

The Festival also continues its “pay-what-you-can” Community Night performance on Thursday, August 6 at 7pm. This hour-long chamber music concert is designed to introduce new audiences to the Festival, and this year—in addition to showcasing the talents of Cabrillo Festival Orchestra members—will feature two spectacular pianists, Lara Downes and Stewart Goodyear.

As well as the featured evening concerts, the Festival continues its tradition of hosting open rehearsals, talks, and the Conductors/Composers Workshop professional training program (focusing on the creation and performance of new music), the Free Family Concert with Tour of the Orchestra, and the two-day community-focused Church Street Fair.

A Nation Divided – Friday, July 31, 8pm

Maestro Măcelaru kicks off the 58th season with works by composers Iván Enrique Rodríguez, Kevin Puts, Andrea Reinkemeyer, and Mason Bates.

Composer Iván Enrique Rodríguez composes works focusing on social justice and activism and incorporating his Puerto Rican musical heritage. Maestro Măcelaru leads the Festival Orchestra in the West Coast premiere of his most recent orchestral piece, A Metaphor for Power, which reflects upon our ideals of equality in America, as seen through the personal lens of the composer’s Latino experience.

Cabrillo Festival veteran and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts will be in residence for the West Coast premiere of his Second Oboe Concerto: Moonlight. This concerto was inspired by the Academy award-winning film Moonlight, and written for oboist Kathleen Needleman, who performs with the esteemed Cabrillo Festival Orchestra. Puts writes, “the piece was written in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, during a time of great upheaval and division in the country and—for me—a profound feeling of disillusionment. I floundered for several months, searching for inspiration until the discovery of the 2016 film Moonlight. I found it exquisitely made, and the film’s demonstration of tolerance and compassion in the midst of a tough environment stayed with me for some time, giving me cause for hope.”

The music of American composer Andrea Reinkemeyer has been described as, “hauntingly melodic and fun, dancing and almost running its way forward (Fanfare Magazine). It explores the interplay of visual metaphors, nature, and sound to create lush textures against churning rhythmic figures. Her piece,Water Sings Fire draws inspiration from Leigh Bardugo’s eponymous short story, a feminist origin myth to the Hans Christian Andersen classic, The Little Mermaid, in which themes of ambition and betrayal are explored allegorically through Ulla’s transformation from obscure mermaid to tempestuous sea witch.

Closing out the evening is the West Coast premiere of Grammy Award-winning composer Mason BatesThe Art of War, a powerful new symphony that explores the drama of human conflict from the perspectives of soldiers, weaponry, and human loss. Animating a three-movement symphonic structure are original field recordings–of weapons tests; elements of American and Iraqi folk music; and the printing presses of the US Treasury–triggered from the orchestra by the composer.

Violins of Hope – Saturday, August 1, 7pm

Maestro Măcelaru leads the Festival Orchestra in two West Coast premieres and one World premiere on Saturday, August 1.

“The American composer Pierre Jalbert writes music of considerable elegance,” wrote Joshua Kosman in the San Francisco Chronicle. Maestro Măcelaru leads the Festival Orchestra in the West Coast premiere of Jalbert’s Passage, written in response to Beethoven’s Symphony No 4 and presented in commemoration of Beethoven’s 250th Birthday. “The title refers to the transformation of musical passages from Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, which informed this work, into a modern musical language,” writes Jalbert. Passage is in three contrasting movements, with each movement responding to a different aspect of Beethoven’s score. “Ultimately, the piece stands on its own terms, filtered through my own musical language, to form something of our own time.”

Dubbed “one of the decade’s more gifted, up-and-coming modern classical composers” (Pitchfork), Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and vivid narrative. Her single-movement orchestral work Hiraeth, which features an original film by Mark DeChiazza, receives its West Coast premiere at Cabrillo. ‘Hiraeth’ is a Welsh word, loosely translated as homesickness tinged with longing for the lost or departed, or for a home you can no longer return to. The music is deeply emotional, affected by Snider’s loss of her father as she was composing.

The evening concludes with a powerful and profound Festival commission: the full orchestral version of Guggenheim Fellow Jake Heggie’s Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope, with text by Gene Scheer, and featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Benjamin Beilman as guest artists. Written in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope is a celebration of the resilience of the human spirit. This powerful work is based on the stories told by musicologist and author James A. Grymes in his book Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour. Violinist Beilman, as well as several of the Cabrillo Festival musicians, will perform on some of the historic string instruments from the Violins of Hope collection—instruments that were played by Jews in concentration camps during the Holocaust and subsequently recovered and meticulously restored by Israeli violinmakers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein. This is the last event of Violins of Hope SF Bay Area, a monumental 40-organization collaboration, and will include talks and educational programs with Avshalom Weinstein.

Free Family Concert – Sunday, August 2, 1 pm

The Festival’s annual fun, free and always engaging family concert brings back Festival favorite Gregory Smith. A multi-talented composer and arranger of scores, songs and themes for television and film, Smith is also the creator of engaging family-friendly concert music that has been performed by major orchestras from Boston to Bonn, Toronto to Hong Kong.  This concert features VIBE, the newest symphonic educational concert work by Smith. Narrated by the composer, this lighthearted, participatory musical takes its young audience behind the scenes to explore the science of sound and how it travels, how echoes work, and the significance of having two ears. The event also includes the popular Tour of the Orchestra, which invites kids to meet the orchestra’s different instruments and players.

Quartet San Francisco in Concert – Sunday, August 2, 7pm
Quartet San Francisco, three-time Grammy Award nominee, makes their Festival debut with a Sunday night program of tango and jazz—and you can expect them to do it with “breezy wit, fine technical finish and a genuine feeling for musical idiom” (Washington Post). Founded by violinist Jeremy Cohen, QSF is a non-traditional and eclectic string quartet, exploring a wide range of music genres and challenging the traditional classical music foundation of the string quartet. Violist Chad Kaltinger is a hometown troubadour and longtime member of the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra.

Community Night – Thursday, August 6, 7pm

This year the Festival’s popular pay-what-you-can Community Night concert includes a presentation of Entr’acte by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw performed by string players of the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, conducted by Cristi Macelaru. As well, the program includes solo piano performances by guest artists Lara Downes and Stewart Goodyear, playing in advance of their orchestral concerts during the Festival’s final weekend. All seating is general admission, and the audience is invited to stay after the show to sip wine and meet the musicians. Inaugurated in 2018, Community Night has already become a beloved community tradition.

Susan B. – Saturday, August 8, 7pm

The second weekend of the Cabrillo Festival begins with works by Stacy Garrop, Paola Prestini, Dan Caputo, and the late Christopher Rouse.

The evening begins with For the Crime of Voting, a world premiere by celebrated Chicago-based composer Stacy Garrop, whose music is centered on dramatic and lyrical storytelling. This new work for orchestra and spoken narration was commissioned by the Cabrillo Festival in commemoration of the centenary of women’s suffrage in America. Incorporating the words of suffragist Susan B. Anthony, Garrop takes the audience thorough a journey of Anthony’s arrest, trial, and conviction, after she illegally voted in the 1872 presidential election.

A second work celebrates the passing of the 19th Amendment: Paola Prestini’s piano concerto Hindsight: Let Me See the Sun, which features trailblazing pianist Lara Downes. Prestini is an “imaginative composer” hailed the New York Times. Hindsight: Let Me See the Sun infuses folk music, virtuosity, harsh dissonance, and vocal simplicity. The concerto is about the human impulse to remain hopeful, and what it means to struggle towards clarity and light. The work is structured as a dialogue between piano and orchestra, at times contentious and at times unified.

Dan Caputo, a composer of instrumental and electronic music, explores the ways detailed aural textures and curious musical behaviors can elicit complex psychological responses. Măcelaru leads the Festival Orchestra in Liminal, a work that aims to reflect the psychological behaviors people experience during transitional states.

Concluding the evening is a posthumous tribute to a beloved friend to Cabrillo and Festival favorite: Pulitzer-prize winning composer Christopher Rouse. In his prolific career, Rouse created a body of work perhaps unequaled in its emotional intensity. The New York Times called it “some of the most anguished, most memorable music around.” Tonight Măcelaru leads the Festival Orchestra in Rouse’s final work, Symphony No. 6. Notable for its dark, expressive sound world, Symphony No. 6 was Rouse’s only four-movement symphony. Rouse wrote of composing this work, “Now I hope to have lived a full enough life to have something to say that is worth perhaps a little of my listeners’ time. To live one’s life is, it sometimes seems, to spend all of one’s time on a rollercoaster as we try adapting to the sudden, unexpected changes of direction our ‘amusement park ride’ subjects us. (Sometimes those changes aren’t always very ‘amusing.’) Nonetheless, it is the very unpredictability of life that makes it so wonderful.”

Truth to Power –Sunday, August 9, 7pm

Cabrillo Festival concludes another extraordinary season on Sunday, August 9, with works by John Harbison, Joan Tower, and Sean Shepherd.

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Harbison is an 81-year old American master who has yet to be featured at Cabrillo Festival—until now! Harbison’s music is “rich with lyrical outpourings” (New York Times) that are filtered through his “rigorously crafted language” (Strings Magazine). The Great Gatsby Suite—adapted from his opera, based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald—abounds in cakewalks, ragtime and jazz, and is scored for orchestra, including saxophones and banjo. Composed in 2007 the work receives its West Coast premiere tonight, with Harbison in residence.

Grammy Award-winning composer Joan Tower is celebrated for her bold and energetic music. A gifted pianist, she composed her Piano Concerto (Homage to Beethoven) in 1985, infusing it with references to three of her favorite Beethoven sonatas—the Tempest, the Waldstein and Op. 111. As Cabrillo celebrates the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, soloist Stewart Goodyear—a celebrated Beethoven interpreter—tackles Tower’s virtuosic homage. His playing combines an “instinct for drama and aching lyricism with a sense of freshness, rhythmic vivacity and organic sweep (Gramophone).”

Closing out the program and Festival is Mass Appeals, a world premiere by Sean Shepherd commissioned by the Cabrillo Festival. An“exciting composer of the new American generation” (New York Times), Shepherd has earned wide acclaim and commissions from major ensembles and performers across the US and Europe. Steeping himself in the words and ideas of historic and contemporary public figures including Robespierre, Angela Davis, Abbie Hoffman and Greta Thunberg, Shepherd’s piece explores the profound impact of words, using only the language of music. Quoting music of their respective eras, Shepherd’s Mass Appeals comments on the power of language and suggests the possibilities for change, transformation and peace.




Festival tickets range from $30-$75 for individual concerts and $310-350 for full subscriptions. Many events are free and open to the public. The public may access information on the Festival website at www.cabrillomusic.org or call (831) 426-6966; and are encouraged to join the mailing list to receive updates.

Full Subscriptions may be ordered online, by phone (831-420-5260) or in person at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium Box Office, 307 Church Street beginning March 10; Single Tickets may be purchased beginning June 2. The Box Office is open Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 6pm, and during events.


All events will be held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium at 307 Church Street in Downtown Santa Cruz.



Friday, July 31, 2020, 8pm – A Nation Divided

Iván Enrique Rodríguez: A Metaphor for Power (West Coast Premiere)

Kevin Puts: Second Oboe Concerto: Moonlight (Katherine Needleman, oboe) (West Coast Premiere)

Andrea Reinkemeyer: Water Sings Fire

Mason Bates: The Art of War (Mason Bates, electronica) (West Coast Premiere)


Saturday, August 1, 2020, 7pm – Violins of Hope

Pierre Jalbert: Passage (West Coast Premiere)

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Hiraeth (with film by Mark DeChiazza) (West Coast Premiere)

Jake Heggie: Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope (Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano; Benjamin Beilman, violin) (World Premiere | Festival Commission)


Sunday, August 2, 2020, 1pm–Free Family Concert

Gregory Smith: VIBE (Gregory Smith, narrator) (West Coast Premiere)


Sunday, August 2, 2020, 7pm–Quartet San Francisco in Concert

Featuring Quartet San Francisco


Thursday, August 6, 2020, 7pm – Community Night—Pay What You Can concert event

Featuring Lara Downes, Stewart Goodyear, members of the Festival Orchestra, conducted by Cristian Măcelaru


Saturday, August 8, 2020, 7pm – Susan B.

Stacy Garrop: For the Crime of Voting (World Premiere | Festival Commission)

         (Text from Susan B. Anthony; with recorded narration)

Paola Prestini: Hindsight: Let Me See the Sun (Lara Downes, piano)

Dan Caputo: Liminal

Christopher Rouse: Symphony No. 6 (West Coast Premiere)


Sunday, August 9, 2020, 7pm – Truth to Power

John Harbison: The Great Gatsby Suite (West Coast Premiere)

Joan Tower: Piano Concerto (Homage to Beethoven) (Stewart Goodyear, piano)

Sean Shepherd: Mass Appeals (World Premiere | Festival Commission)



Jake Heggie: Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope, orchestral version (Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano; Benjamin Beilman, violin)

Stacy Garrop: For the Crime of Voting (Text from Susan B. Anthony; with recorded narration)

Sean Shepherd: Mass Appeals


Iván Enrique Rodríguez: A Metaphor for Power

Kevin Puts: Second Oboe Concerto: Moonlight (Katherine Needleman, oboe)

Mason Bates: The Art of War (Mason Bates, electronica)

Pierre Jalbert: Passage

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Hiraeth (with film by Mark DeChiazza)

Gregory Smith: VIBE (Gregory Smith, narrator)

Chris Rouse: Symphony No. 6

John Harbison: The Great Gatsby Suite



Mason Bates

Dan Caputo

Stacy Garrop

John Harbison

Jake Heggie

Pierre Jalbert

Paola Prestini

Kevin Puts

Andrea Reinkemeyer

Iván Enrique Rodríguez

Sean Shepherd

Sarah Kirkland Snider

Gregory Smith