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Anton Genast

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The Weimar Court Theatre around 1800

Anton Genast, real name Anton Kynast, (* 1763 in Trachenberg, Silesia; † 4 March 1831 in Weimar) was a German actor and opera singer (tenor).

Life

Anton was born in 1763 as the son of Kynast, a steward serving the Prince of Hatzfeld. Among his numerous siblings he was considered the most talented. Against his will, he was sent to the Jesuits at school in Krakow and was to become a priest at the request of his parents.

At the age of 20 he returned to Trachtenberg, where there were heated arguments with his father, because he adamantly wanted him to take the position of a chaplain. Secretly Anton Genast fled from the parental home to become an actor in Breslau. However, the theatre there rejected him and so Genast joined a theatre troupe performing in Bunzlau, from which he received a weekly salary of one thaler. On the written playbills his name appeared there for the first time as Genast.

In the four years that followed he changed touring theatres several times, sang and acted in all sorts of subjects, until by chance in 1786 he came to Prague to Karl Friedrich Wahr, who was director of the German drama there. Karl Friedrich Wahr, himself a great actor, took care of him and taught him acting and declamation.

At the Prague Theatre he also met singers of Italian opera under the direction of impresario Domenico Guardasoni, with whom he could converse well because of his knowledge of Italian. Through the singer Bassi, for whom Don Giovanni was written, he even met Mozart.

His tenor voice prompted Karl Friedrich Wahr to employ his pupil in the German Singspiel as a tenor buffo. In this subject he also received an engagement to Weimar in 1791. On the way there he visited his parents in order to successfully bring about a reconciliation.

After a few years in Weimar, he was given the post of director at the Weimar Court Theatre under the direction of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which he shared with Heinrich Becker on a weekly basis. Goethe and Friedrich Schiller held him in very high esteem as a director.

“Into the intentions of the former, whose unconditional confidence he possessed and unwaveringly maintained, he had so reasoned and settled that he usually guessed what the master wanted and desired even before his mouth uttered it”

W.G.Gotthardi: Weimar theatre pictures from Goethe’s time

Anton Genast worked at the Weimar court theater until his retirement on April 1, 1817, just as long as Goethe. He died on March 4, 1831. Contrary to his father’s initial will, his son Eduard Franz Genast entered the acting business late but successfully.

Literature

  • Moritz Fürstenau: Genast, Anton. In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Vol. 8, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1878, p. 559 f.
  • Eduard Franz Genast: From the Diary of an Old Actor.
  • Günther Hansen:Genast, Anton. In: New German Biography (NDB). Vol. 6, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964, ISBN 3-428-00187-7, p. 180 f. (Digitalisat).
  • Georg Hensel: Playbill. Schauspielführer von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. Ullstein, Taschenbuchverlag, 2001, pp. 385 ff., 392, ISBN 3-548-75059-1.
  • E. Pasqué: Goethe’s Theatre Management in Weimar.

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