German composer. He wrote 18 operas, including Martha (1847).
Flotow was born in Teutendorf, the son of a nobleman. He went to Paris, France, in 1827 and studied music under Antonín Reicha and others. He began to produce operas at aristocratic houses and wrote incidental music for the play Alessandro Stradella at the Palais-Royal in 1837 (it was enlarged into an opera in 1844). Over the next two years he contributed musical numbers to Albert Grisar's operas Lady Melvill (1838) and L'Eau merveilleuse (1839), and in 1839 he made his first public stage success with Le Naufrage de la Méduse, based on an incident in 1816 involving a French ship whose crew were left adrift on a raft while the officers escaped in lifeboats.
His greatest success came with Martha, produced in Vienna, Austria, in 1847; its blend of German sentiment and Italian ardour made it popular for many years in Europe and at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. He was intendant of the court theatre at Schwerin, Germany, 1856–63. He then returned to Paris, but went to live near Vienna in 1868.
WorksStage French, German, and Italian operas, including Le Naufrage de la Méduse (1839), L'Esclave de Camoëns (1843), Stradella (1844), L'Ame en peine, Martha (1847), Rübezahl, L'Ombre, Il fior d'Harlem, Rob Roy (after Scott); ballets Lady Henriette (with Burgmüller and Deldevez, on which Martha was based later), Die Libelle, and Tannkönig; incidental music to Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale (1859).
OtherFackeltanz, overtures, and other pieces for orchestra; chamber music, songs.