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The A-Z of Richard Strauss: P is for Da Ponte

The 18th century librettist-turned-New York grocer da Ponte wrote some of Strauss's favourite libretti, and in part inspired Elektra and Die Frau ohne Schatten.

By Gavin Plumley (Classical music blogger)

27 May 2014 at 11.46am | Comment on this article

Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte’s collaboration on Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte was a yardstick for Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

Da Ponte was one of 18th-century opera's most colourful characters: a former priest with a reputation as a womanizer, he emigrated to the US to start a new life as a greengrocer.

Writing to Strauss about Elektra in 1908, Hofmannsthal commented that ‘you may wish me to transpose the whole thing into a simpler and more lyrical key, while preserving the scenario entire, an operation such as Da Ponte carried out on the text of the comedy Le Mariage de Figaro’. Strauss later praised Hofmannsthal as being like Da Ponte and Eugène Scribe, the librettist of Robert le diable and Les Vêpres siciliennes, ‘rolled into one’. But perhaps the strongest parallel with the world of the late 18th-century Vienna and Mozart’s collaboration with Da Ponte and came from Hofmannsthal in 1911, when he suggested that Die Frau ohne Schatten would ‘stand in the same relation to Die Zauberflöte as Rosenkavalier does to Figaro’.

View other posts in our weekly Richard Strauss A-Z series

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 (25 June-13 July). Tickets for Ariadne auf Naxos are still available.

By Gavin Plumley (Classical music blogger)

27 May 2014 at 11.46am

This article has been categorised Music and tagged by Charles Edwards, by Christof Loy, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Elektra, Production, Richard Strauss, Strauss 150, Strauss A-Z

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