Lila (Singspiel)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Title: purple
Genus: Singspiel
Original language: German
Author: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Publishing year: 1777
Premiere: January 30, 1777
Place of premiere: Weimar lovers theater
Place and time of the action: Weimar , Thuringia
  • Baron Sternthal
  • Lila, Baron Sternthal's wife
  • Sophie, Lila's sister
  • Lucie, Lila's sister
  • Marianne, sister of Baron Sternthal
  • Count Altenstein
  • Count Friedrich
  • Doctor Verazio
  • Magus

Lila is a Singspiel poem ("Festival with Song and Dance") by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , which he wrote for the twentieth birthday of Duchess Louise of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach . The original version can be dated to the year 1777. It was created within a few weeks around the turn of the year 1776/77. On January 30, 1777, the work was premiered on the stage at the Weimar Liebhabertheater . Goethe himself took on the role of Doctor Verazio and Magus.

Goethe revised the text several times; the final and definitive version was created eleven years after the premiere in Rome . He eliminated the significant fairy tale motifs, changed the role characteristics of the protagonists and shortened the Singspiel to four acts. The plot of the five-act original version, which is also recorded under the name Ur-Lila , can still be reconstructed through the arias and choral songs.


The stage singspiel Lila in the third version from 1788 is dedicated in four acts to the recovery and social reintegration of the delusional young Baroness Lila, the first act emphasizing the dramatic starting point. Lila's acute crisis is triggered by a letter erroneously reporting the death of her absent husband, Baron Sternthal. Lila then gets into a state of mental derangement. When her husband arrives back home unharmed, she thinks she has a silhouette of him in front of her. She is convinced that he is a prisoner of evil spirits that are now also threatening her freedom. When several treatment methods common in the 18th century did not improve her condition, the doctor, Doctor Verazio, recommended a new procedure. This assigns an active role to the Lilas family. The family should get involved with Lila's imaginations, fill them in playfully and thereby give them a realistic character.

In the second to fourth act, a fairy tale game is staged under the direction of the doctor Verazio, which contains song and dance elements and in which Lila actively plays. With the help of fairies in the game , Lila finally succeeds in releasing her husband from the captivity of an ogre. This causes her to understand her husband as real existing again and also to let go of her delusions. The scenery ends with the explanation about the staging and Lila's return to her normal social life.


The sensitive festival was Goethe's first work for court festivities in Weimar. As the director of the Liebhabertheater, Goethe was responsible for the entertainment programs, making use of elements such as dance and singing, which were constitutive of courtly theater.

The dance interludes and fairy tale motifs suggest French role models. In a letter to Carl von Brühl , Goethe explained the position between spoken drama and French Singspiel with the improvisational character of the first version. The intermediate position of purple is made clear by the different generic names chosen by Goethe and other contemporaries such as “piece”, “drama” and “operetta with mixed dances”. Further names for the second performance on March 3, 1777 were "large (s) showpiece with song and dance" and "fairy play".

Goethe may have already revised the piece for this performance. In the revised version of 1778, he replaced the figure of the hypochondriac Sternthal with the melancholy , maddened Lila. With this step he took back the autobiographical character of the work, since he had processed his own fear of loss in the difficult relationship with Charlotte von Stein with the male figure . The addressee of the new version was occasionally seen as Duchess Louise herself, who was prone to melancholy. Goethe's experiences in the circle of sensitive friends around Johann Heinrich Merck probably also shaped the second version. In the third version, which was made in Italy in 1788, Goethe described the protagonist's healing process even more realistically. The idea of ​​healing a sick person by building on their delusional ideas in a playful act and thus gradually bringing them closer to reality corresponds to a therapeutic concept of the 18th century, which was called "psychological cure". The third version appeared in the sixth volume of the writings from 1790.

A literary inspiration for Lila came from Jean de Rotrou's tragic comedy L'Hypocondriaque ou Le Mort amoureux , in which the hero's soul is healed in a similar way.

The work was given musical numbers by several composers. While Karl Siegmund von Seckendorff had written the music for the first version, in the following years Johann Friedrich Reichardt , Friedrich Ludwig Seidel and other sound artists took on the revised piece. As sketches show, Richard Strauss also intended to rework the work. The song Feiger thoughts / fearful swaying ... has over 35 settings.

It was not until 1995, after more than 170 years, that the play was performed again in public at the Berlin Theater Affekt , an off-theater group. The production received the Friedrich-Luft-Preis . The jury of the Berliner Morgenpost praised "the theatrical work of a young generation that tries to find its way through an opaque, fragmented world with an ideology-free mind, wit and courage."


The Singspiel Lila is designed according to the traditional play-in-play method. In contrast to other writers' internal plays, such as Shakespeare's Hamlet or ballet interludes in operas, there are no actors as spectators on stage during Lila’s internal play. All actors are integrated into the game in the game.


  • Gottfried Diener : Goethe's "Lila". Healing of "madness" through "psychological cure" . Comparative interpretation of the three versions. With unprinted texts and notes and an appendix on psychological cures from Goethe's time and psychodrama. Frankfurt am Main: Athenaeum, 1971

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Purple. In:, accessed on May 28, 2020 (premiere: June 20, 2006, director: Christian Fuchs).
  2. Martin Huber : Staged Body. Theater as a cultural model in Goethe's Purple Festival. (PDF; 149 kB) In: Goethezeitportal, June 21, 2004, accessed on May 28, 2020.
  3. ^ Peter Huber: Goethe's practical theater work. In: Bernd Witte u. a. (Ed.): Goethe manual. Volume 2: Dramas. Edited by Theo Buck . Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 1997, ISBN 3-476-01444-4 , p. 25.
  4. a b Markus Waldura: The Singspiele. In: Bernd Witte u. a. (Ed.): Goethe manual. Volume 2: Dramas. Edited by Theo Buck . Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 1997, ISBN 3-476-01444-4 , p. 181.
  5. Gero von Wilpert : Lila. In: Ders: Goethe-Lexikon (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 407). Kröner, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-520-40701-9 , p. 635.
  6. Goethe's writings. Volume 6. Georg Joachim Göschen, Leipzig 1790, p. 223 ff. ( Scan in Google book search). -
    Martin Huber : Staged Bodies. Theater as a cultural model in Goethe's Purple Festival. (PDF; 149 kB) In: Goethezeitportal, June 21, 2004, accessed on May 28, 2020. -
    2006 in Weimar. In:, accessed January 11, 2018.
  7. ^ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Weimar Apprenticeship Years ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). In:, accessed on May 28, 2020.
  8. Christian Hunziker: With an ideology-free mind and wit. In: Berliner Zeitung . June 20, 1996 ( ( memento of March 11, 2016 in the Internet Archive )).
  9. ^ Martin Huber: The text as a stage: theatrical narration around 1800 , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2003, ISBN 3-525-20826-X , pages 43 f.