Michael Beer (poet)

Last updated
Michael Beer (c. 1830, artist unknown) Michael beer.jpg
Michael Beer (c. 1830, artist unknown)

Michael Beer (19 August 1800, Berlin – 22 March 1833, Munich) was a German Jewish poet, author and playwright.

Munich Capital and most populous city of Bavaria, Germany

Munich is the capital and most populous city of Bavaria, the second most populous German federal state. With a population of around 1.5 million, it is the third-largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg, as well as the 12th-largest city in the European Union. The city's metropolitan region is home to 6 million people. Straddling the banks of the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps, it is the seat of the Bavarian administrative region of Upper Bavaria, while being the most densely populated municipality in Germany. Munich is the second-largest city in the Bavarian dialect area, after the Austrian capital of Vienna.


Early life

Beer was born to a wealthy Jewish family. His elder brother was the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer; another brother was the astronomer Wilhelm Beer.

Giacomo Meyerbeer German-born opera composer

Giacomo Meyerbeer was a German opera composer of Jewish birth who has been described as perhaps the most successful stage composer of the nineteenth century. With his 1831 opera Robert le diable and its successors, he gave the genre of grand opera 'decisive character'. Meyerbeer's grand opera style was achieved by his merging of German orchestra style with Italian vocal tradition. These were employed in the context of sensational and melodramatic libretti created by Eugène Scribe and were enhanced by the up-to-date theatre technology of the Paris Opéra. They set a standard which helped to maintain Paris as the opera capital of the nineteenth century.

Wilhelm Beer Astronomer and banker

Wilhelm Wolff Beer was a banker and astronomer from Berlin, Prussia, and the brother of Giacomo Meyerbeer.

In the period 1817–1823 he frequently travelled with family members in Italy, where his brother Meyerbeer was studying.

In 1819 Beer was a founder member of the movement Verein für Cultur und Wissenschaft der Juden (Association for Culture and Science of the Jews), which attempted to provide an intellectual framework for considering the Jews as a people in their own right, and to validate their secular cultural traditions as being on an equal footing with those of the German people. Beer's co-founders included Eduard Gans, Moses Moser, Heinrich Heine and Leopold Zunz. [1]

Eduard Gans German jurist

Eduard Gans was a German jurist.

Heinrich Heine German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic

Christian Johann Heinrich Heine was a German-Jewish poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside of Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder by composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. Heine's later verse and prose are distinguished by their satirical wit and irony. He is considered part of the Young Germany movement. His radical political views led to many of his works being banned by German authorities—which, however, only added to his fame. He spent the last 25 years of his life as an expatriate in Paris.

Leopold Zunz German Reform Rabbi

Leopold Zunz was the founder of academic Judaic Studies, the critical investigation of Jewish literature, hymnology and ritual. Zunz's historical investigations and contemporary writings had an important influence on contemporary Judaism.


The first of Beer's works to be performed was Klytemnestra (Clytemnestra), (1819), influenced by the classicism of Goethe. His second stage-work Die Bräute von Aragonien (The Brides of Aragon), was also suggested by Goethe's poetry. [2]

Clytemnestra figure from Greek mythology

Clytemnestra was the wife of Agamemnon and queen of Mycenae in ancient Greek legend. In the Oresteia by Aeschylus, she murdered Agamemnon – said by Euripides to be her second husband – and the Trojan princess Cassandra, whom he had taken as a war prize following the sack of Troy; however, in Homer's Odyssey, her role in Agamemnon's death is unclear and her character is significantly more subdued.

Classicism art movement

Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for a classical period, classical antiquity in the Western tradition, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained: of the Discobolus Sir Kenneth Clark observed, "if we object to his restraint and compression we are simply objecting to the classicism of classic art. A violent emphasis or a sudden acceleration of rhythmic movement would have destroyed those qualities of balance and completeness through which it retained until the present century its position of authority in the restricted repertoire of visual images." Classicism, as Clark noted, implies a canon of widely accepted ideal forms, whether in the Western canon that he was examining in The Nude (1956), or the literary Chinese classics or Chinese art, where the revival of classic styles is also a recurring feature.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 18th/19th-century German writer, artist, and politician

Johann Wolfgang (von) Goethe was a German writer and statesman. His works include four novels; epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; and treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour. In addition, there are numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him extant.

Far superior to these early works was the one-act play Der Paria (The Pariah ), premiered in Berlin in 1823, and admired by Goethe, which was soon played on stages across Germany. In the play, the pariah Gadhi and his wife Maja choose to die so as to enable their son to live freely. [3] The work can be construed as a cry of pain about the pariah status of Judaism in early nineteenth-century Germany. This is a topic which constantly recurs in Beer's correspondence with Meyerbeer. [4] Beer's 1827 drama Struensee (based on the life of the German-Danish reformer Johann Friedrich Struensee) was initially banned from production in Prussia, and was premiered in 1828 in Munich, where Beer had briefly settled and where he became a friend of Schelling. [5] Not until 1846 (thirteen years after the author's death) did the relaxation of censorship enable a performance in Berlin; for this King Frederick William IV commissioned Meyerbeer to provide an overture and incidental music. [6]

Paraiyar or Parayar is a caste group found in Sri Lanka and the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They are also known as Adi Dravida, which was a title encouraged by the British Raj as a substitute for Paraiyar because the British believed that their colonising of the country had ended slavery in India.

Johann Friedrich Struensee De facto regent of Denmark

Johann Friedrich, Greve Struensee was a German doctor. He became royal physician to the mentally ill King Christian VII of Denmark and a minister in the Danish government. He rose in power to a position of "de facto" regent of the country, where he tried to carry out widespread reforms. His affair with Queen Caroline Matilda caused a scandal, especially after the birth of a daughter, Princess Louise Augusta, and was the catalyst for the intrigues and power play that caused his downfall and dramatic death.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling German philosopher (idealism)

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Johann Gottlieb Fichte, his mentor in his early years, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, his former university roommate, early friend, and later rival. Interpreting Schelling's philosophy is regarded as difficult because of its evolving nature.

Beer's poetic output includes a series of 'Elegies' written in Italy, a protest at the injustice of criminal sentencing (Im Gerichtssaal), and a satirical poem on the paradoxes of extreme religiosity (Der fromme Rabbi).

Later life

Beer's personality is known mainly through his correspondence with his family and with the playwright Karl Leberecht Immermann. [7] Beer spent many of his last years in Paris where he was acquainted with Heinrich Heine, Ferdinand Hiller and Felix Mendelssohn, who was an occasional chess-partner. [8]

Karl Leberecht Immermann German writer

Karl Leberecht Immermann was a German dramatist, novelist and a poet.

Ferdinand Hiller German composer and conductor

Ferdinand (von) Hiller was a German composer, conductor, pianist, writer and music director.

Felix Mendelssohn 19th-century German composer, pianist and organist

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. Mendelssohn's compositions include symphonies, concertos, piano music and chamber music. His best-known works include his Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the oratorio Elijah, the overture The Hebrides, his mature Violin Concerto, and his String Octet. The melody for the Christmas carol "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is also his. Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words are his most famous solo piano compositions.

Beer's early death was attributed to neurasthenia. [9] He is buried with his parents and siblings in the Jewish cemetery in Schönhauser Allee, Berlin.

Michael Beer Foundation

Beer was, in the tradition of his family, generous of his wealth and supported scholars and artists, including the orientalist Salomon Munk. [10] He bequeathed a large fortune, which was turned into a foundation administered by the Berlin Academy of Arts. The annual income of the Michael Beer Foundation was awarded to two young artists, who had to be Jewish; this financed a one-year study period in Italy, of which they had to spend at least eight months in Rome. [11]

Related Research Articles

Moses Mendelssohn German Jewish philosopher and theologian

Moses Mendelssohn was a German Jewish philosopher to whose ideas the Haskalah, the 'Jewish enlightenment' of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is indebted.

Das Judenthum in der Musik literary work

"Das Judenthum in der Musik" is an essay by Richard Wagner which attacks Jews in general and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular. It was published under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (NZM) of Leipzig in September 1850 and was reissued in a greatly expanded version under Wagner's name in 1869. It is regarded by some as an important landmark in the history of German antisemitism.

Ignaz Moscheles Czech conductor, music educator, composer and pianist

Isaac Ignaz Moscheles was a Bohemian composer and piano virtuoso, whose career after his early years was based initially in London, and later at Leipzig, where he joined his friend and sometime pupil Felix Mendelssohn as Professor of Piano at the Conservatoire.

Carl Friedrich Zelter German composer

Carl Friedrich Zelter was a German composer, conductor and teacher of music. Working in his father's bricklaying business, Zelter attained mastership in that profession, and was a musical autodidact.

<i>Robert le diable</i> opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer

Robert le diable is an opera in five acts composed by Giacomo Meyerbeer from a libretto written by Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne. Robert le diable is regarded as one of the first grand operas at the Paris Opéra. It has only a superficial connection to the medieval legend of Robert the Devil.

Daniel Itzig German banker

Daniel Itzig was a Court Jew of Kings Frederick II the Great and Frederick William II of Prussia.

Josef Gusikov Belarusian musician

Michal Josef Gusikov was a Russian-Jewish klezmer who gave the first performances of klezmer music to West European concert audiences on his 'wood and straw instrument'.

<i>Jerusalem</i> (Mendelssohn) book by Moses Mendelssohn

Jerusalem, or on Religious Power and Judaism is a book written by Moses Mendelssohn, which was first published in 1783 – the same year, when the Prussian officer Christian Wilhelm von Dohm published the second part of his Mémoire Concerning the amelioration of the civil status of the Jews. Moses Mendelssohn was one of the key figures of Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) and his philosophical treatise, dealing with social contract and political theory, can be regarded as his most important contribution to Haskalah. The book which was written in Prussia on the eve of the French Revolution, consisted of two parts and each one was paged separately. The first part discusses "religious power" and the freedom of conscience in the context of the political theory, and the second part discusses Mendelssohn's personal conception of Judaism concerning the new secular role of any religion within an enlightened state. In his publication Moses Mendelssohn combined a defense of the Jewish population against public accusations with contemporary criticism of the present conditions of the Prussian Monarchy.

Adolf Martin Schlesinger was a German music publisher whose firm became one of the most influential in Berlin in the early nineteenth century.

Adolf Bernhard Marx German writer on music

Friedrich Heinrich Adolf Bernhard Marx was a German composer, musical theorist and critic.

Gustav Karpeles Austrian critic and historian

Gustav Karpeles was a German Jewish historian of literature and editor; son of Elijah Karpeles.

Franz Seraphin Lauska, baptised as Franciscus Ignatius Joannes Nepomucensis Carolus Boromaeus, was a Moravian pianist, composer, and teacher of Giacomo Meyerbeer. The name "Seraphin" was a later name affix, which Lauska never used. Lauska was considered "one of the most brilliant executants of his time."

Carl Friedrich Rungenhagen composer and music teacher

Carl Friedrich Rungenhagen was a German composer and music teacher.

Sara Grotthuis, born Sara Meyer, also known as Sophie Leopoldine Wilhelmine Baroness von Grotthuis and as Sara Wulff by her first marriage, was one of the most well-known "salonnières" of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Berlin.

<i>Die beiden Kalifen</i>

Die beiden Kalifen is an 1813 opera in two acts by Giacomo Meyerbeer, to a libretto by Johann Gottfried Wöhlbruch, based on a tale from the Arabian Nights.

Karl Wilhelm Gropius, also Carl Wilhelm Gropius, was a German set painter and scenic artist, working in the theatres of Berlin. He was also a printmaker and seller and a prolific caricaturist.


  1. Sachar (1990), 163
  2. Kahn (1976), 151
  3. Kahn (1976), 151, 155-6
  4. Conway (2012), 167-8
  5. Espagne (1996), 60
  6. Becker (1989), 108-9
  7. Kahn (1976), 152
  8. Hiller (1874), 23
  9. Jewish Encyclopedia, 'Beer, Michael'
  10. Esapgne (1996), 193-4
  11. Kahn (1976), 158