Official Language: German
Area: 357,124 sq km (137,886 sq miles)
Climate: In the area surrounding Hamburg, in the north, average monthly temperatures range from 1.6°C (35°F) in January, the coldest month, to 18.2°C (65°F) in July, the warmest, whereas around Munich (München), in the more mountainous south, the average temperature in January is about −0.7°C (31°F). Frankfurt, in the warmer centre of the country, reaches an average temperature of 19.4°C (67°F) in July.
Religions: Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Lutheranism (Protestant)
Current Population: 83,155,031
The multiple lines of development that opera followed in German-speaking lands up to the middle of the 19th century reflect not only the absence of a single or dominant tradition of musico-dramatic practice but also a general state of cultural and political decentralization. Only with Wagner’s music dramas (themselves deeply embedded in German instrumental practice, and without successors) did a purely national and indigenous conception of opera obliterate the art form’s undertone of foreignness.
A variety of stage representations involving music antedate the arrival of Italian opera on German soil: sacred dramas, Latin school dramas, court entertainments, ballets and plays with music in the popular theatre. For most of the 17th century, operatic activity of any kind in German lands was sporadic and directly dependent on Italian example. The first German opera, Heinrich Schütz’s Dafne (to a libretto adapted from Rinuccini by Martin Opitz) was an occasional piece given in 1627 at Torgau, near Dresden.
Germany's most important civic stage, established at Hamburg in 1678, quickly became the principal centre for German-language opera. Although local diplomats and nobles were involved, the undertaking was essentially civic in nature, with frequent changes of management.
The ‘Singspiel’, as the new German phenomenon has come to be called, owed its life and lineaments to the German system of private theatrical entrepreneurship, called Prinzipalshaft, whereby an impresario (or Prinzipal) organized and guided a group of actors at his own risk and profit, sometimes securing a privilege from a court or town council allowing a more or less extensive stay in one place, sometimes wandering from one small centre to the next. Leipzig, where the new genre was born, attracted rival troupes during its commercial fairs; it also drew the kind of middle-class audience that, together with its own population of townspeople and university students, were the true free-market arbiters of the new genre’s popularity and economic value to theatrical managers.