Beethoven thanks Rochlitz for his opera text but regrets that he will not be able to set it to music. The reason he gives is that the subject of the opera is one which is of little interest to the public at the moment ("if your opera had not been a magic opera, I would have grabbed it with both my hands").
Beethoven emphasizes how gladly he would otherwise have set the libretto, particularly as he has just broken off his cooperation with Schikaneder due to disagreements. Emanuel Schikaneder, who had taken over the artistic direction of the Theater an der Wien in 1803, had commissioned Beethoven to set his libretto "Vestas Feuer" ("The Vestal Flame") to music.
Due to the outdated subject (Cherubini's operas had altered the public's taste, instead of fairy tale operas they now preferred the French type), but predominantly because of the inferior quality of the text, Beethoven had stopped work on the composition at the end of 1803 and "completely separated" from Schikaneder, as he writes to Rochlitz.
Beethoven says that following this disagreement he has now begun work on an opera with a French text - following the mood of the times. This remark is the first one known which Beethoven makes at the beginning of his work on his only opera "Fidelio".
Beethoven apologizes to Rochlitz for declining his libretto and encourages him to send him libretti again any time. He is then not able to stop himself from saying that he actually has many good reasons for being cross with Rochlitz because the latter has kept publishing untruths about him in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. However, he is aware that he has many enemies in Vienna who purposely give false reports and that Rochlitz cannot be made accountable for this.
Johann Friedrich Rochlitz was an editor for the Leipziger Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (AmZ) and as such a well-known music critic. In April 1803 Beethoven had been greatly angered by Rochlitz' review of "Christus am Ölberge" ("Christ on the Mount of Olives") and had complained to the publishing house Breitkopf & Härtel, who also published the AmZ. However, the fact that he turns down Rochlitz' libretto probably only had to do with the content and was not personal. We know from later letters and documents that Beethoven was kindly disposed towards Rochlitz and that he was by no means hostile towards him.
176. Beethoven an Johann Friedrich Rochlitz in Leipzig
Vien am 4ten Jenner 1804 –