The eldest of three children, Carl Maria von Weber was born in November 1786. His father, initially, a military officer was himself a gifted musician and later went on to found a theatrical company. Furthermore, Carl had four musical cousins, one of which was Constanze Weber, the wife of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Weber developed early as a musician and his father had hopes
of imitating the successes of his nephew-by-marriage, Mozart. His first musical
instruction was with his father but he later went on to study with other
musicians, including Michael Haydn (the younger brother of Joseph Haydn) and
Abbé Vogler. His first composition appeared in print in 1798, at the age of
twelve, and in 1801 he began to contribute articles as a music critic. His
first major success came in 1803 with the opera Peter Schmoll und seine
Nachbarn ("Peter Schmoll and his Neighbors"), which led to his post as
director of the Opera in Breslau in 1806. Attempting to reform the Opera, Weber
met strong resistance from both the musicians and the public and ultimately
left the post the following year. The following three years were hardly any
better for the young musician. Serving as a private secretary to Duke Ludwig,
brother of King Frederick I of Württemberg, Weber fell deeply into to debt. To
make matters even worse, his father misappropriated a large sum of the Duke's
funds. Charged with embezzlement, Weber and his father were imprisoned.
Nevertheless, Weber remained active as a composer and he and his father were
eventually banished from Württemberg.
After such a sour turn of event, Weber met with a streak of
success. In 1813, he was director of the Opera in Prague, later moved to Berlin
in 1816, and in 1817 became director of the prestigious Opera in Dresden. During
this time, he worked to establish a German opera and his work would go on to
influence other composers, especially Richard Wagner. His first success, Die
Freischütz premiered on June 18, 1821 followed by Euryanthe two
years later in 1823. In 1824, at the invitation of Covent Garden, London, Weber
composed Oberon. Two years later, he traveled to London to oversee its
premiere. However, it was a trip Weber was not to return from. Already
suffering from tuberculosis, Weber died during the night of the June 4-5. He
was only thirty-nine years old. He was buried in London, but eighteen years
later his remains were returned to the family vault in Dresden.
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