Friederike Caroline Neuber

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Friederike Caroline Neuber
( New Theater Almanac , 1898)

Friederike Caroline Neuber or Neuberin (born March 9, 1697 in Reichenbach in Vogtland ; † November 30, 1760 in Laubegast near Dresden ) was an actress and co-founder of regular German drama .

Live and act

Memorial plaque in Weißenfels Castle
Laubegast monument to Neuberin

She was born in Reichenbach in Vogtland as the daughter of the Zwickau lawyer and court director Daniel Weißenborn and his wife Anna Rosine Wilhelmi. She received lessons in reading, writing and French from her very educated mother, who suffered an early death as early as 1705. She then grew up with her father in Zwickau , where she spent her childhood and youth from 1702 to 1717. The tyrannical father, who also beat his wife, severely chastised the unloved child. A lash left a scar on her face for life. She made her first escape attempt at the age of 15 - but was recaptured and charged with disobedience and theft by the father and sentenced to 13 months in prison.

"Großer Blumberg" in 2010 on the Brühl in Leipzig
Theater bill of the Neubersche drama troupe for September 8, 1738 in Hamburg

In 1717 she fled with her lover Johann Neuber , an assistant to her father. First, they joined the Spiegelberg'schen actors' troupe in Weißenfels , where they first appeared on stage with her husband at Neu-Augustusburg Castle . In the autumn of 1717, Christian Spielberg's group of actors was named Königl. Great Britannian and Churhannoversche court comedians invited by Duke Ludwig Rudolf to his court in Blankenburg (Harz) , where Friederike Caroline Weißenborn and Johann Neuber performed on November 22, 1717. On February 5, 1718 she married Johann Neuber in Braunschweig Cathedral . Both soon switched to the Haack-Hoffmann troupe, which they reorganized in 1727 and from this founded the Neuber'sche Komödiantengesellschaft in Leipzig , which on August 8, 1727 was granted the privilege of being the royal Polish and electoral Saxon court comedians . The nominal and administrative director of the Neuber Society was her husband, she was the principal. Due to the court privilege, which also included the right to appear on a permanent stage during the Leipzig trade fair, the Neuber'sche Gesellschaft had a permanent theater built in the Großer Blumberg am Brühl house in Leipzig . Although fun-loving, she strictly observed the morals and discipline of the actors, trained them artistically, rented accommodation and paid fixed salaries. In doing so, she made a significant contribution to the recognition of the actor's profession, who until then were considered an immoral, dishonest rabble. She herself is described as astute, persistent, agile and daring to the point of boldness. As director of this troupe, she attracted the best talent. Neuber also appeared as an actress himself and wrote several auditions and dramas, but only a few have survived.

Supported by the writer, professor and educator Johann Christoph Gottsched , who became aware of them in 1724, Neuber initiated an important reform of German theater history from 1730. In contrast to the French theater, which was played at courts (by court actors, some of whom, like the members of the privileged Bavarian court actors, also worked as "traveling groups") and which contained many ballet performances, Neuber ran a new theater primarily with themes from the bourgeoisie in high German. She performed four dramas ( Regulus , Le Cid , Cinna and Jean Racines Bérénice ) translated from French in Leipzig, followed by plays by Destouches , Pierre Marivaux and Voltaire .

After the death of August the Strong in 1733, Neuber lost his privilege to run a permanent theater in Leipzig and went on tour again. In Braunschweig , Duke Ludwig Rudolf made the opera house available. After his death in 1735, Neuber planned to live in Hamburg on the permanent stage, the Comoedien Bude. She was denied success. Well-known companies secured a game permit by correspondence from the city council. The actors, especially traveling comedians, led a socially despised existence, were considered dirty people with rough manners and were materially impoverished. It was not uncommon for them to be blamed when disasters such as the plague, war or crop failures hit the city. The educated middle class wanted nothing to do with the actors; on the other hand, their ideas were popular with the common people. At that time, the Hamburg audience preferred “Hanswurst theater” and opera.

In 1737 Neuber symbolically banished the Hanswurst as a symbol for the old theater from the stage as well as the " main and state actions " that had been common up until then . She insisted on playing the Hanswurst herself. In the same year she played five evenings in a row in the Hubertusburg hunting lodge in front of the Saxon Elector Friedrich August II. She then accepted the invitation of Duke Karl Friedrich of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf. His death in 1739 also ended this guest performance. In 1740 she gave her last performance in the opera house on Gänsemarkt in Hamburg and bid farewell to the audience with sarcastic criticism: "Because you have very little light from the art of acting / because you lack tenderness, nature and art." The magistrate withdrew her then the permission to play. But Neuber already had an invitation from Tsarina Anna to Petersburg . Shortly after their arrival, the Tsarina promoted Neuber and her group of actors to "court actors". But the tsarina died in autumn 1740 and Neuber lost her courtly favor, so that she returned to Germany disappointed in spring 1741.

The Saxon Minister Heinrich von Brühl provided her with a permanent venue in Leipzig . She fell out with Gottsched in 1741. She criticized the fact that his pieces lacked powerful lyrics, that he didn't deliver enough and that a translation by Gottsched's wife was unsuitable. In her play The Most Precious Treasure , she mocks Gottsched as a gigantic nocturnal figure with bat wings. Due to moderate success and a lack of income, Neuber had to dissolve their company for the first time in 1743. In the same year a mocking poem appeared about her with the title Rehearsal of a Hero Poem in 8 Books ... Life and Deeds of the world-famous and best comedian of our time ... Friederica Carolina Neuberin . The young Gotthold Ephraim Lessing saw Neuber's performances and translated Hannibal von Marivaux and the Scattered von Regnard for them. In 1748 Neuber directed Lessing's first play The Young Scholar .

Friederike Caroline Neubers grave in the Leuben cemetery in Dresden

Between 1734 and 1755 Neuber gave numerous guest appearances in the German-speaking area. B. in Frankfurt am Main and Strasbourg. In Dresden she initially appeared eight times in the Gewandhaus on Neumarkt “actiones comico- tragicas”, for 2, 4, 6 or 8 groschen admission, depending on whether the audience wanted to “be away from or close to the theater”. They reorganized their society, but had to dissolve it again in Zerbst in 1750 due to financial problems, this time for good. In 1753 she tried her luck again as an actress in Vienna with the comedy Das Schäferfest , but without success.

Johann Neuber died in Dresden in 1759. The Prussian bombardment during the Seven Years' War drove Neuber from Dresden to neighboring Laubegast in 1760 , where she died in abject poverty, completely withdrawn from the stage. She was buried in the Leuben cemetery without a memorial service .

Appreciation and aftermath

Art lovers erected a memorial for her in Laubegast in 1776 with the following inscription: "To honor a woman full of male spirit, the most famous actress of her time, the author of good taste on the German stage, this memorial stone was erected by her friends and admirers in 1776." As “Madame de Retti” in Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship novel , Johann Wolfgang von Goethe set her a literary monument.

In 2008, a painting found in 1992 in the attic of the Moritzburg Talamt building in Halle, behind a paneling , which shows the Neuberin with her theater troupe, was identified as such. The picture was formerly used as a wall covering in the Redoutensaal at Blankenburg Castle and was relocated during World War II . The work, which is considered the only authentic image of Neuberin, was probably painted by the Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel court painter Johann Conrad Eichler around 1730 in Blankenburg. A copy of the painting was installed at the entrance of the Neuberin Museum in Reichenbach at the end of 2017.


Caroline Neuber Monument in Dresden-Laubegast
Caroline Neuber as Medea ,
postage stamp 1976
  • Neuberinhaus in Reichenbach in Vogtland - municipal theater and event house
  • Neuberin Museum in Reichenbach im Vogtland - Museum for theater, textile and city history
  • Neuberin Medal of the city of Reichenbach in Vogtland, awarded to personalities for special achievements in the development of the city, its reputation or for services to the well-being of its citizens. From 1978 onwards as Böttiger stoneware production. 1993 reissued from fine silver.
  • Memorial plaque in Zwickau
  • "Caroline Neuber Prize of the City of Leipzig" : Prize for female theater professionals from German-speaking countries
  • Monument in the Laubegast district of Dresden
  • Memorial plaque at Neu-Augustusburg Castle in Weissenfels
  • Five Mark DDR coin in German silver for the 225th anniversary of death in 1985
  • Theater prize “Die Neuberin”: the INTHEGA prize, which has been awarded since 1985, is determined by means of a point system as the voting result within the INTHEGA members and honors three productions that have proven to be artistically remarkable in the previous season.
  • Friederike Caroline Neuber Foundation Blankenburg

Since 2011 the INTHEGA Prize has been named "Neuberin" after Friederike Caroline Neuber.


  • Wolfram Günther:  Neuber, Friederike Caroline. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 19, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-428-00200-8 , p. 100 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Gisela Stockmann: Caroline Neuber. Reformer , In: Gisela Stockmann, Steps out of the shadows. Women in Saxony-Anhalt , Dingsda-Verlag, Querfurt 1993, ISBN 3-928498-12-6 .
  • Herbert Eulenberg The Neuberin , in the peep box . Engelhorn 1921
  • Friederike Caroline Neuber. The life's work of the stage reformer. Poetic documents. 1. 2. Part. Edited by Bärbel Rudin and Marion Schulz. Neuberin Museum Reichenbach i. V., 1997, 2002 = writings of the Neuberin Museum. 1 + 8. ISBN 3-932626-00-1 ; 3-932626-08-7.
  • Reason and sensuality. Contributions to the theater era of the Neuberin. Results of the symposium on the 300th birthday of Friederike Caroline Neuber, March 8th - 9th, 1997. Series: Writings of the Neuberin Museum, 2nd ed. Bärbel Rudin and Marion Schulz. Neuberin-Museum, Reichenbach 1999 ISBN 3-932626-03-6 .
  • Joseph Kürschner:  Neuber, Caroline . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 23, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1886, pp. 472-476.
  • Hermann Schwedes: "Musicians and comedians, one thing is like the other." The way of life of the theater people and the problem of their bourgeois acceptance. Orpheus. Publishing house for systematic musicology, Bonn 1993 ISBN 3-922626-65-3 S. 54f.
  • Friedrich Johann Freiherr von Reden-Esbeck: Caroline Neuber and her contemporaries. A contribution to German cultural and theater history. Johann Ambrosius Barth, Leipzig 1881, p. 33; again (reprint): Zentralantiquariat der DDR, Leipzig 1985; again as print-on-demand since 2010
  • Petra Oelker : The Neuberin. The life story of the first great German actress. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004. ISBN 3-499-23740-7 .
  • Petra Oelker : “Nothing but a comedian.” The life story of Friederike Caroline Neuber. Beltz, Weinheim 1993 ISBN 3-407-80724-4 p. 24
    • back in: people who moved the world. Gandhi, Neuber, Johannes Kepler. Edited by Günter Doebel et al. - Das Beste, Reader's Digest , Stuttgart et al. 2003 ISBN 7-100-11498-5 .
  • Graf, Ruedi (1999): The professor and the comedian. On the tension between Gottsched's theater reform and the Schaubühne. In: Rudin, Bärbel; Schulz, Marion (ed.): Reason and sensuality. Contributions to the theater era of the Neuberin. [Writings of the Neuberin Museum; 2] Reichenbach im Vogtland 1999. pp. 125–144.

Web links

Commons : Friederike Caroline Neuber  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hilde Thoms : Where our art of acting was born. Blankenburg am Harz and the stage life of the Neuberin. Association for the promotion of the Friederike-Caroline-Neuber-Foundation e. V. (Neuberin Foundation), Blankenburg (Harz) 2019.
  2. ^ Article by Friederike Caroline Neuber in: Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, 17th edition, Vol. 13, Wiesbaden 1971, ISBN 3 7653 0000 4 , p. 321.
  3. ^ Max Döllner : History of the development of the city of Neustadt an der Aisch up to 1933. Ph. C. W. Schmidt, Neustadt a. d. Aisch 1950, OCLC 42823280 ; New edition to mark the 150th anniversary of the Ph. C. W. Schmidt publishing house, Neustadt an der Aisch 1828–1978. Ibid 1978, ISBN 3-87707-013-2 , p. 372.
  4. a b Peter Kümmel: With anger and courage . In: DIE ZEIT , No. 48, November 25, 2010 ( online , accessed December 4, 2010)
  5. Report on the discovery of the portrait in the 'Free Press'
  6. Report on the find in the 'Dresdner Bezirkanzeiger'
  7. Information on how to find it on the website of the 'Association of Restorers'
  8. Article about attaching the copy of the Neuberin painting
  9. Bylaws on honoring deserving personalities by the city of Reichenbach in Vogtland from November 8th, 2017 . Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  10. ^ Official homepage of the foundation
  11. INTHEGA prices . Accessed August 31, 2019.