Thursday, February 5, 2015

Corona Schröter and Goethe

Corona Schröter drawing a bust of Goethe
I continue to plunge through Safranski's biography of Goethe, or Kunstwerk des Lebens. The new environment of Weimar certainly stirred Goethe's imagination and gave him, initially anyway, "ein freies Feld" for his exuberant tendencies. Even for those who "know" their Goethe, this section is a pleasant (in the best sense of the term) read. Goethe is close to power, even if it is a small power. It is hard to dredge up a contemporary example of the situation of the duchy. Even the small Muslim principalities of India in the 15th and 16th centuries had more splendor than Weimar. Power relies to a great extent on symbolism.

Besides Charlotte von Stein, Goethe was very drawn to the actress Corona Schroter, whom the duke and Goethe urged to settle in Weimar. She was, however, according to Safranski, very concerned for her reputation and was always accompanied by a kind of "Kammerzofe." The duke wooed her, with great effort, but with no success.

Goethe likewise was attracted. He wrote in his diary on January 2, 1777, after a visit with her: Nicht geschlafen. Herzklopfen und fliegende Hitze. In May, when Charlotte von Stein was away, she spent an entire day with Goethe in his garden house. A few days later, Charlotte, having heard of this visit, made a rare visit to the garden house.

Goerg Melchior Kraus: Goethe als Orest und Corona Schröter als Iphigenie
Goethe became an impresario in the first years in Weimar, especially of cultural activities. The "Uraufführung" of Iphigenie took place in April 1779 in the Redoutentheater. According to Safranski, he created the character of Iphigenie on Corona, viewing her as beautiful and passionate, yet also pure and "sittsam." This first production featured Corona as Iphigenie and Goethe as Orest. Writes Safranski: "Coronas junonische Formen und ihr sorgfältig drapiertes seidenes Kostüm paßten zm antikisierenden Geschmack bei Hofe, und Goethe selbst kam so gut zur Geltung, daß der Arzt Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland noch im hohen Alter in Erinnerungen schwelgte: 'man glaubte eine Apollo zu sehen.'" Goethe's own diary entry of April 6 records the following: "Iph[igenie] gespielt. gar gute Würkung davon besonders auf reine Menschen." His friend Knebel played Thoas, and Prince Constantin appeared in the role of Pylades. The above painting by Kraus was executed in the same year. The painting of Corona drawing the bust of Goethe, also by Kraus, is from 1794-97.

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