Viktor Nessler

Ottomar Weymann, 1880s
  • Born: 28 January 1841, Baldenheim, Alsace
  • Died: 28 May 1890, Strasbourg, Alsace

Popular German composer of the late nineteenth century.

The 1887 Met (NY) programme for Der Trompeter von Säkkingen says:

“He learnt the elements of music in his home.  At fourteen he attended the Gymnasium at Strassburg, and after passing his baccalaureate examination, devoted himself to theology.  But he always had a decided taste for music; he took instruction in theory, and then composed pieces of religious character, among which were the 125th, 126th and 137th Psalm, and a grand mass for male voices, all to the great regret of his father.  An accident gave lasting tendency to Nessler’s musical studies and in 1864 he had to give up theology altogether.  It came about in this way: Nessler’s friend and fellow-theological student, Edmund Febrel, wrote an opera-text, entitled Fleurette (the first love of Henry IV), and he had composed the music to it.  The opera was accepted for performance at the Strassburg City Theatre, and the names of the two young theologians were printed in large letters on the play-bills.  The “evil-doers” were cited to appear before the President of the Directorium, and compelled on account of their very untheological work, to resign from the theological faculty.  Fleurette was performed for the first time on March 15, 1864, and achieved a brilliant success.  The young composer then went to Leipsic, where he completed his musical studies under the teaching of Bernsdorf and Hauptmann, and the advice of David, Moscheles and Reinecke.  He first devoted his attention to the composition of choral works; he became leader of a number of Maennergesang-Societies in Leipsic and in 18S0 took the direction of the Leipsic Saengerbund, which embraces eight societies of singers. Of this he is still honorary conductor, though at present he resides at Strassburg.  In 1868 he composed his romantic opera Dornroschen’s Brautfahrt (The Sleeping Beauty’s Bridal Trip): then followed two one-act operas entitled Am Alexanderstag, and The Night-Watchman, which were accepted by Laube for the Leipsic Opera House.  In 1876 his opera Irmingard was produced at Leipsic.  In 1879 his Ratcatcher of Hameln achieved a great success and made the name of the composer renowned.  Then he wrote The Wild Huntsman, and last The Bugler of Sackingen, one of the greatest successes of modern times on the German operatic stage.”

His last opera, Die Rose von Strassburg, was a flop; Nessler was accused of copying Wagner.  He was so affected by the failure that he died soon after.

More information:


  1. Fleurette (1864)
  2. Dornröschens Brautfahrt (1867)
  3. Die Hochzeitsreise (1867)
  4. Am Alexandertag (1869)
  5. Nachtwächter und Student (1871)
  6. Irmingard (1876)
  7. Der Rattenfänger von Hameln (1879)
  8. Der wilde Jäger (1881)
  9. Der Trompeter von Säkkingen (1884) ***
  10. Otto der Schütz (1886)
  11. Die Rose von Strassburg (1890)