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Richard Strauss

Composer

Biography

Richard Strauss (1864–1949) was one of the most important composers of the 20th century. He is particularly famed for his writing for the soprano voice, his brilliant orchestration and his intricate operatic plots.

Strauss was born in Munich, where his father Franz was principal horn in the court orchestra. He began composition studies aged 11 and in 1883 became a protégé of the conductor Hans von Bülow, who encouraged him to study the music of Wagner. In 1887 he met the soprano Pauline de Ahna, who was to prove a major influence during his career. They married in 1894. He did not approach opera until he was nearly thirty (his early masterpieces included several orchestral tone poems such as Don Juan and many songs). His first two operas, Guntram (1893) and Feuersnot (1901), received lukewarm responses, but Salome (1905) was a tremendous succès de scandale. It was followed by the even more intense Elektra (1909), Strauss’s first collaboration with the writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Their partnership continued until Hofmannsthal’s death in 1929 and produced some of Strauss’s most successful operas, including Der Rosenkavalier (1911), Ariadne auf Naxos (1912, revised 1916), Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919) and Arabella (1933, Strauss completing the libretto after Hofmannsthal’s death). In the same period Strauss wrote the comic opera Intermezzo (1924) to his own text. He also remained active as a conductor. Strauss’s successful new collaboration with Stefan Zweig, with whom he wrote Die schweigsame Frau (1935), ended when Zweig left Austria after Hitler’s ascent to power. Strauss’s less happy collaboration with librettist and historian Joseph Gregor led to the operas Friedenstag (1938), Daphne (1937) and Die Liebe der Danae (1940, first public performance 1952). Strauss wrote his final opera, the exquisite Capriccio (1942), in collaboration with the conductor Clemens Krauss.

Deeply depressed by World War II, Strauss believed that his composing career had come to an end. In fact he enjoyed an Indian summer in the last years of his life, producing orchestral music and songs including Metamorphosen (1945), the Oboe Concerto (1945) and Vier letzte Lieder (1948). He died in Garmisch in 1949.

Videos

News and features

Claus Guth’s production of <em>Die Frau ohne Schatten</em> wins Best Opera at The South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2015

Claus Guth’s production of Die Frau ohne Schatten wins Best Opera at The South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2015

8 June 2015

Richard Strauss’s dark fairytale honoured at a ceremony held at The Savoy Hotel in London, last night.

Opera in the City of Love: Paris as muse

Opera in the City of Love: Paris as muse

13 May 2015

Composers have been inspired by everything about the French capital – from its seediness to its troubled political history – but most of all by its air of romance.

When behind the scenes becomes centre stage in opera and ballet

When behind the scenes becomes centre stage in opera and ballet

6 May 2015

Operas and ballets often take themselves as a subject – with comic, confusing or even violent results!

Photos

The Royal Opera in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress and Johan Botha as the Emperor in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Anush Hovhanissyan as the Falcon and Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Elena Pankratova as Barak's Wife and Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Michaela Schuster as Nurse and Elena Pankratova as Barak's Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress, Michaela Schuster as Nurse and Elena Pankratova as Barak's wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Johan Reuter as Barak, Elena Pankratova as Barak's Wife and Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Michaela Schuster as Nurse and Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Michaela Schuster as Nurse, Emily Magee as the Empress and Johan Botha as the Emperor in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Christoph Quest as Major Domo and Karita Mattila as Ariadne auf Naxos in Ariadne auf Naxos

Elisabeth Schumann and Richard Strauss, date unknown. By George Grantham Bain

Louise Armit as Confidante and Michaela Schuster as Klytemnestra in Elektra

Christine Goerke as Elektra and Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis in Elektra

Anne Schwanewilms as Chrysothemis in Ekektra

Angela Denoke as Salome in Salome

Richard Strauss c. 1948

Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Michaela Schuster as the Nurse in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress and Michaela Schuster in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress, Elena Pankratova as Barak's wife and Johan Reuter as Barak in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Hubert Francis as Hunchback Brother, Johan Reuter as Barak, Adrian Clarke as One-Eyed Brother and Jeremy White as One-Armed Brother in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Elena Pankratova as Barak's wife, Hubert Francis as Hunchback Brother, Adrian Clarke as One-Eyed Brother, Jeremy White as One-Armed Brother and Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Johan Reuter as Barak in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Elena Pankratova as Barak's wife and Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress and Johan Botha as the Emperor in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Michaela Schuster as Nurse, Emily Magee as the Empress and Johan Botha as the Emperor in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Roberto Saccà as Bacchus and Karita Mattila as Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos

Jeremy White as Truffaldino, Wynne Evans as Scaramuccio and Paul Schweinester as Brighella in Ariadne auf Naxos

Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos

Paul Schweinester as Brighella and Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos