7 July 2014 at 2.27pm | Comment on this article
Like many composers and artists before him, Richard Strauss felt himself drawn towards Vienna during the first decades of the 20th century.
The imperial capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been the centre of musical creativity in Europe for over 150 years. Strauss’s collaboration with the Austrian writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal to the city made Vienna even more attractive to the composer, and the two set both Der Rosenkavalier and Arabella there.
Strauss moved to the city after World War I to take up the directorship of the Staatsoper, a position previously held by Gustav Mahler. But the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as a consequence of its defeat in the War had turned the former imperial hub into the capital city of a small, landlocked republic. While Strauss and his colleague Franz Schalk oversaw a happy period in the Staatsoper’s history, the premiere of Die Frau ohne Schatten in Vienna on 10 October 1919 fell on stony ground. Conceived before the horrors of the war, and the termination of an opulent empire, it was first performed to a broken society, wearied by the excesses of successive emperors and empresses. It would be the only opera Strauss chose to debut in Vienna during his tenure at the Staatsoper.
2014 sees the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss’s birth. The composer is celebrated at the ROH with stagings of Die Frau ohne Schatten (which ran until 2 April 2014) and Ariadne auf Naxos (until 13 July). Tickets for Ariadne auf Naxos are still available.