Here Are Fleas You Want to Have

Goethe: Faust and Fleas(Photo: wikipedia)
Goethe: Faust and Fleas(Photo: wikipedia)

This morning I had an e-mail from an Ohio State Universit Professor of Entomology (bugs). She wants some insight into music about fleas.

The go-to guy for this is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). He is the German Shakespeare, the philosopher/poet at the root of German literature and the romantic era in music.

Goethe’s magnum opus, Faust, is the source for his take on fleas. Or rather the devil’s take on fleas.

This flea is consulting his tailor about a fine silk coat. In satin and in velvet, the young junker dressed Bedizen’d o’er with ribbons and a cross upon his breast.

There are lots of references to Faust in music. Fewer to fleas. Hector Berlioz took a flea to the tailor in his opera/oratorio La damnation de Faust:

Modest Mussorgsky seldom finished his music because alcoholism got in the way. Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov put finishing touches on his friend’s music. Hence a Mussorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov flea:

Beethoven’s Flohlied comes from 1810, in his collection of lieder, opus 6:

You don’t have to scratch these fleas.

If you want something prettier, think of music and butterflies. Hint: There’s more to that than Puccini.

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