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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

Our favourite doomed operatic parties

Our favourite doomed operatic parties

5 December 2014

Curses, seduction and murder – why are operatic parties always doomed to end in tears?

26 things you may not know about Richard Strauss

26 things you may not know about Richard Strauss

11 August 2014

Our A-Z of Strauss series takes a closer look at the composer on the 150th anniversary of his birth; from the debate over his Nazi sympathies, to his fondness for yodelling.

The A-Z of Richard Strauss: Y is for yodel

The A-Z of Richard Strauss: Y is for yodel

28 July 2014

The composer's Alpine home influenced the inclusion of yodelling in two of his works.

The A-Z of Richard Strauss: X is for Xylophone

The A-Z of Richard Strauss: X is for Xylophone

21 July 2014

Strauss is often the favourite composer of percussionists, offering plenty of things to hit, chime and ring.

The A-Z of Richard Strauss: W is for Waltz

The A-Z of Richard Strauss: W is for Waltz

14 July 2014

The composer shared Johann Strauss II's fondness for triple time.

The A-Z of Richard Strauss: V is for Vienna

The A-Z of Richard Strauss: V is for Vienna

7 July 2014

Wearied by war, the once glorious imperial hub became home to a broken society during Strauss’s time there.

Photos

Richard Strauss in 1904. Photo by Edward Steichen

Ruxandra Donose as The Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos

Kiandra Howarth as Echo, Wynne Evans as Scaramuccio, Paul Schweinester as Brighella, Karita Mattila as Ariadne, Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta and Jeremy White as Truffaldino in Ariadne auf Naxos

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

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

Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta and Jeremy White as Truffaldino in Ariadne auf Naxos

Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Emily Magee as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten

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

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 in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Jeremy White as One-Armed Brother, Adrian Clarke as One-Eyed Brother, Hubert Francis as Hunchback Brother and Elena Pankratova as Barak's Wife 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

Artists of The Royal Opera in Elektra

Christine Goerke as Elektra and Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis in Elektra

Andrew Staples as Flamand in Capriccio

Renée Fleming in Capriccio

Anne Schwanewilms as Chrysothemis in Ekektra

Johan Reuter as Jokanaan in Salome

Karita Mattila as Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos

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

Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos

Thomas Allen as the Music Master and Ruxandra Donose as The Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos

The Royal Opera's Ariadne auf Naxos in Ariadne auf Naxos

Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta and Ruxandra Donose as The Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos

The Royal Opera's Ariadne auf Naxos in Ariadne auf Naxos

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

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

The Royal Opera in Die Frau ohne Schatten

Johan Botha as the Emperor 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

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

Elena Pankratova as Barak's wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten