Friday, August 25, 2017

Born Today August 25: Henrik Hertz

1797 or 1798-1870

Danish poet and playwright Henrik Hertz was born on this date in Copenhagen, Denmark into a Jewish household.  His father died when he was an infant; making matters much worse, the family's property holdings were destroyed in the British bombardment of 1807.  As a result of this, he was brought up by a distant relative who happened to be a newspaper editor of prominence.  In 1817 he was sent to university where he studied law.  In 1825 he passed his law exam, but he had already showed a perference for literature; in fact, he had already begun to write.  In 1826 and 1827, two of his plays were produced.  By 1832 he had several plays in multiple genres produced and had moved on to didactic poetry.  And, by 1844, he had several volumes of edited poetry published, as well as a large number of produced plays.  In 1858 and 1859 he served as editor a literary journal:  Weekly Leaves.  Hertz continued to work on his plays and their productions right up until the time of his death.  The last play that he had produced was his final drama and was presented in 1969.  Hertz died in 1870 in Copenhagen on the 25th of February.  I can find no information on his burial.  Today, he is remembered for being a first rate writer of romantic drama and has left a lasting tradition in the Danish live theater.  A handful of films have made use of his work as source material, the first being King René's Daughter in 1913--a film made at Thanhouser (a print of which survives in the Library of Congress).  It would be 40 years befor another film was made of his work; this was based on the same material as the Thanhouser film, but this time it was a homegrown Danish production.  Kong Renés datter (1953) was made for domestic television (though released in other formats as well--including radio), and was a live play performance.  The most recent use of his work came in an installment of The Metropolitan Opera HD Live (a series started in 2006), in a 2015 performance of a Tchaikovsky operatti using that same work of Hertz's as a libretto.  

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