The Pastorello musicale, composed in 1663 by the Königsberg court kapellmeister Johann Sebastiani, constitutes a significant addition to our knowledge of the genesis of early German opera [… and] can safely be regarded as the earliest extant musical source of a German baroque opera.
The score of Johann Sebastiani's Pastorello musicale belongs to the holdings of the former Wallenrodtsche Bibliothek at Königsberg and was first mentioned and briefly described in 1921 by Wenzeslaus Piotrowski. Joseph Müller-Blattau later repeatedly announced discussions of the work "in a larger context"; these were never published, however, so that after 1945 the score shared the fate of all the Königsberg library holdings and had to be considered missing or lost. The known references to the work's structure as being "in the manner of an Italian madrigal opera", or following the “path of the Florentine choral opera”, turned out to be too vague and, the musical source being unavailable, of little use in revealing the significance of the Pastorello musicale.
As early as in the mid-1980s, source-related investigations in the field of German literature revealed that at least some of the Königsberg library holdings had escaped destruction. Klaus Garber reported more than once that a surprisingly large number of collections of occasional poetry from Königsberg formerly held at the Wallenrodtsche Bibliothek had surfaced, among other places, at the Lithuanian National Library Martynas Mazvydo and at the library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in Vilnius. In this context he also drew attention to the fact that the Academy of Sciences held the printed text of a “Verliebtes Schäfferspiel”, which transmits the libretto of the Pastorello musicale. Soon after this, Ralf Päsler announced that music manuscripts from the holdings of the Wallenrodt and Gotthold collections had shown up in Vilnius as well. Finally, the score of the Pastorello musicale was “discovered” a second time during a research excursion in early 2001 dedicated to the search for musical sources from the Gotthold collection.
It is to be hoped that the first edition presented here will contribute to establishing the significance of this important musical document in the context of scholarly research on early German opera.
(Michael Maul, translation by Stephanie Wollny)