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Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss

Salome  Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège  08-06-2011
Richard Strauss
Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège
Salome  Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova  25-05-2016
Richard Strauss
Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova

Richard Strauss' life

Richard Strauss was born in Munich in 1864. His father is the principal horn player in the Munich Court Orchestra. Richard shows his talent in music at an early age and received training in piano, violin, theory, harmony, and orchestration. His Serenade for 13 Winds, Op. 7 (1881) was written when he was 17 and brings him close to the conductor Hans von Bülow who was able to give him his first commission and a position as assistant conductor. He so starts a long career of conducting and composing, which brings him all over Europe and the U.S. As a composer, his works represent a body of music of central importance in the late German Romantic repertoire. After becoming conductor at Berlin's Hofoper, he turns more to opera, which soon become fixtures of the German repertoire. His first two attempts, Guntram (1894) and Feuersnot (1901), are controversial, the first representing the first significant critical failure of his career, and the second one considered obscene by some critics. Strauss then regains the public's favour with Salomé, a modernist opera based on the play by Oscar Wilde, which received a passionate reaction from audiences. The premiere is a major success and it allows it to be performed many times. During his long career, he lived one of the most tumultuous periods in political, social, and cultural history of the world, but this didn't prevent him from keeping his essentially Romantic aesthetic. Regarding the period of Nazism, his position is easy to understand through his own words, written on his notebook in 1933: “I consider the Streicher-Goebbels Jew-baiting as a disgrace to German honour, as evidence of incompetence—the basest weapon of untalented, lazy mediocrity against a higher intelligence and greater talent”. Strauss dies at the age of 85 in 1949.

Strauss' Operas

Guntram (1893), Feuersnot (1901), Salomé (1905), Elektra (1908), Der Rosenkavalier (1910), Aradne auf Naxos (1916), Die Frau ohne Schatten (1917), Intermezzo (1924), Die ägyptische Helena (1928), Arabella (1933), Die schweigsame Frau (1935), Friedenstag (1938), Daphne (1938), Die Liebe der Danae (1940), Capriccio (1942).


Strauss' Salomé

Salomé, debuted on the 9th of December 1905, is placed in a crucial moment of Strauss' career and it represents a real turning point. Large space is given to an innovative aesthetic of composition by offering such a horrific humanity which shocked the public, considered too loosened and used to the lame exoticism of Puccini's Madama Butterfly (1904) or the image of a happy Europe depicted in La vedova allegra (1905). Strauss' creative phase finishes in 1909 with Elektra. An episode of sacred history had never been depicted in such a depraved and obscene way, so to strike the public with the innovative power of the opera: the bluntness of the plot to the high sensuality (sadistic, macabre and therefore sick in a decadent sense) and the composer's ability to move the depicting potentiality of the orchestra to a more decadent theme. Strauss wraps the nocturne and sensual Orient in a musical vortex characterized by an incredibly intense sound and a sharp lightness like a fire which runs out in a second, after it underlines the different features of the characters' personalities: Herod's perverse hysteria, Herodias' tragedy, Narraboth's humanity, the dreadful “libertine of virtues” Jochanaan and most of all, Salomé's sensuality who embodies the vampire-woman as a metaphor for all the eternal perditions and therefore a manifest of Decadence.

Strauss' Daphne

Daphne debuted at Staatsoper in Dresden in 1938. It was the time of the Third Reich and when it was commissioned to the composer, with the libretto written by Joseph Gregor, it looked like an attempt to get out of the nazi barbarian: the protagonist Daphne, in fact, rejects the environment around her neglecting her love to humans (Leukippos) and to the gods (Apollo), who tries to seduce her. In a context which sees the opposite ideals represented by Dionysus and Apollo, the opera tells the story of a nymph who's insensitive to love but wishes to fond herself with nature, as it happens during the final when she turns from human being to a tree.
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