The Virginia Premiere
TRAGÖDIE IN GERMAN IN ONE ACT
Music By Richard Strauss
Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal after Sophocles‟s Electra
Premiere: January 25, 1909, Königliches Opernhaus, Dresden
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Elektra Plot Overview 2 Principal Characters in the Opera 2 Detailed Story Narrative 3 Meet the Composer: Richard Strauss 8 Meet the Librettist: Hugo von Hofmannsthal 11 The History and Story of Electra 13
The History of the Production 15 The Psychology of Elektra 16
The Dramatic Structure 17
The Music of Elektra 19
A Short History of Opera 21
The Operatic Voice 22
Opera Production 23
Elektra Essay Questions 24
In the courtyard of murdered King Agamemnon‟s palace in Mycenae, servant women ridicule Elektra, his haggard and ill-tempered daughter. Elektra has become consumed by her monomania: revenge against her mother, Klytämnestra, and her paramour, Aegisth, for their murder of her father, Agamemnon. Elektra, together with her sister, Chrysothemis, live in virtual imprisonment in the palace, surviving on hopes and expectations that their exiled brother, Orest, will return and avenge their father‟s
Klytämnestra, seized with guilt, is prepared to make any sacrifice if the gods would free her from her plaguing nightmares: she confronts Elektra to seek her help, but Elektra advises her that there is but one sacrifice; her own death at the hands of kin.
Elektra and Chrysothemis receive false news that Orest is dead, shattering their dreams for revenge. In despair, Elektra pleads unsuccessfully with her sister to aid her in avenging their father‟s death;
undaunted, Elektra decides that she alone will exact retribution.
Orest returns, at first in disguise, but afterwards reveals his identity to Elektra. Orest fulfills the deed: he slays Klytämnestra, and then Aegisth. Elektra celebrates her victory by erupting into a royal dance; afterwards, she falls lifeless to the ground.
PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS IN THE OPERA
Elektra (Electra) Agamemnon‟s daughter Soprano (Dramatic)
Chrysothemis, her sister Soprano (Spinto)
their mother, Agamemnon‟s widow Mezzo-soprano (Dramatic)
Klytämnestra‟s paramour Tenor (Helden)
son of Klytämnestra and Agamemnon Baritone (or Bass baritone)
Orest‟s Tutor (Guardian) Bass
Klytämnestra‟s Confidante Soprano
Klytämnestra‟s Trainbearer Soprano
A Young and an Old Servant Tenor, Bass
An Overseer Soprano
Five Maidservants Sopranos, Mezzo-sopranos
Men and serving women of the household
Time and Place: Ancient Mycenae. The courtyard of Agamemnon‟s palace.
(The ancient Greek names are Electra, Clytemnestra, Orestes, and Aegistheus. In the Strauss-Hofmannsthal cast list, those names in German are Elektra, Klytämnestra, Orest, and Aegisth.)
DETAILED STORY NARRATIVE
A courtyard in Agamemnon’s palace, the murdered King of Mycenae and the House of Atreus.
Five of Queen Klytämnestra‟s maid-servants, watched by an overseer, draw water from a well at
twilight, wondering aloud whether Elektra, Agamemnon‟s eldest daughter, will arrive as usual to wail for her dead father.
Elektra suddenly rushes into the courtyard, a ragged, unkempt creature, whose demeanor is anxious, hysterical, and raging: she sees the serving women and raises her arms instinctively as if to conceal and protect herself against a brutal assault from them. The orchestra resonates with themes associated with Elektra‟s inner turmoil: the ax falling, her self-protection, and her obsessive monomania for hatred and
Elektra‟s score is saturated with constant waves of deliberately ugly harmonies intended to convey a sense of nightmarish terror. The “Murder Chord” is initially an innocent third inversion of a seventh chord (D flat, F, A flat, C flat), but it is transformed into harmonic horror, a sense of murder in which a perfect fifth lower than its normal bass; an E natural, is added.
Klytämnestra‟s royal household, down to the humblest servant, hates, despises, and fears Elektra, believing that she is possessed by madness. Elektra continually reminds them that the blood of a murder haunts their palace, but anyone who dares to defend her is punished with a thrashing and imprisonment. Four of the maids gossip, gloating over Elektra‟s self-imposed depravity, standoffishness, and haughty
contempt for them; they describe her as fearful and suspicious, like a vulture that claws at graves or a wild beast that should be caged.
Trembling, the fifth and youngest servant defends Elektra, protesting that she is of noble birth, a victim of evil injustice, and that the women are insensitive to her suffering. The outraged overseer removes the servant and savagely flogs her.
SCENE 2: Elektra alone
After the servants depart, Elektra reemerges. Distraught and in great pain, she begins her great monologue, invoking her murdered father and his children‟s revenge. Elektra describes in vivid detail Agamemnon‟s gruesome murder by his wife, Klytämnestra, and her paramour, Aegisth: they struck him with an axe while he was naked in his bath.
Intoxicated by her monomania for revenge, Elektra calls for the spirit of Agamemnon to reveal himself and become his own avenger: “Father, do not leave me alone! Show yourself to your child as you did yesterday, like a shadow in the recess of the wall!…..with eyes wide open, glaring at the house, with slow relentless steps and vengeful eyes.”
Elektra describes how Agamemnon‟s spirit urged his children to unite and exact a bloody vengeance on his murderers. The bond of love between Agamemnon‟s children, Elektra, Chrysothemis,
and Orest, resounds ecstatically through the orchestra.
Elektra envisions the triumphant day of Agamemnon‟s children‟s revenge; when his children will honor their father by slaying the royal horses and hounds, and consecrate their victory with a royal dance at his tomb: “I will dance in triumph.”
SCENE 3: Elektra and Chrysothemis
Elektra‟s savage dream of triumph and revenge is interrupted by the sudden appearance of her younger sister, Chrysothemis. The sisters confront each other; it is a contrast between human and demoniac motivations in which Chrysothemis is weakened by love, and Elektra is strengthened by hatred and revenge.
Chrysothemis expresses her tearful despair and warns her sister that Queen Klytämnestra and Aegisth plan to punish her with imprisonment in a dark tower. Elektra scorns her sister‟s fears and weakness, tries to infect her with hatred, and reiterates their sacred duty to exact revenge against their evil mother and her wicked consort.
But Chrysothemis is unable to cope with their life of torment and confinement in the palace. She has become driven to virtual madness, demented by fear, and can no longer endure their futile vigil of anxiously awaiting their brother‟s return to exact revenge. She shrinks from violence and wants to
escape from their misery, yearning to live a normal life of marriage and children; she passionately proclaims her yearning for love and a decent life, Ich hab’s wie Feuer in der Brust, “There is a burning
fire in my breast,” and concludes with a climactic plea to Elektra, “Let me bear children.”
The sound of a crowd is heard approaching: it is Queen Klytämnestra and her entourage: priestly slaughterers crack whips at the stumbling and shrieking cattle that are being prepared for a ritual sacrifice to appease the gods whom she believes have caused her anxiety.
Chrysothemis informs Elektra that Klytämnestra dreamed that Orest returned and pursued her to avenge Agamemnon‟s murder: she awakened trembling and screaming in fright and fear. Her anxiety has transformed into violence and terror, and Elektra should beware of crossing her path. But Elektra remains stoical, and with deadly determination, advises her sister that she is especially desirous of facing her mother today. Chrysothemis, aghast and filled with fright, rushes away.
SCENE 4: Elektra and Klytämnestra
Klytämnestra appears before Elektra, her tunic held by a Trainbearer as she leans on her Confidante. She is a horrible spectacle: her face appears sallow and bloated, ever more pale in the lurid glow of the torches and the starkness of her brightly colored robe; she wears talismans to ward off evil, is bedecked with gleaming bracelets and rings, and her cane is encrusted with jewels and precious stones. Her eyelids appear unnaturally large, but she has difficulty keeping them open. Klytämnestra conveys the image of a woman disfigured by debauchery: a terrifying woman whose mind is tortured and ravaged by guilt.
Although Klytämnestra staggers with pomposity and arrogance, she trembles with anger at the sight of Elektra, reproaching the gods for punishing her with such a wretched daughter whom she cannot endure to touch but cannot bring herself to annihilate. Elektra, seething with hatred, mocks her mother‟s invocation of the gods to placate her anxieties, reminding her sarcastically: “Why blame the gods? Are you not a goddess yourself?”
Klytämnestra chooses to disregard Elektra‟s scorn; on the contrary, she has come to meet her daughter with a purpose and announces to her entourage that she wishes to be alone with her: she dismisses both her Confidante and Trainbearer, both of whom depart reluctantly.
Passionately, Klytämnestra confides in Elektra, suspecting that her resentful and rebellious child possesses clairvoyant powers that can remedy and dispel her torment: her sleepless nights, her monstrous and hideous nightmares when she does sleep, and the evil demons that terrify and haunt her.
She claims that she is not ill, yet she senses that she is afflicted and disintegrating. Desperately, she reveals that she has become paralyzed by hallucinations and evil spirits, and vows to find the proper
sacrifice to the gods; she is prepared to slay any living creature in order to dispel her torment and exorcise her demons. Can Elektra propose a sacrifice?
Elektra replies in riddles, assuring her mother that once the sacrificial offering has been made, Klytämnestra‟s nightmares will end. Elektra announces that the sacrifice must be human, and that the chosen victim will be a woman, neither servant, child, nor maiden, but a wife: the sacrificial blood will be made to flow by an avenger who is both stranger and kinsman.
Elektra‟s riddle confounds Klytämnestra who becomes impatient, agitated, and demands more straightforward answers. But Elektra frustrates Klytämnestra by changing the subject, posing a sensitive question that her mother does not grasp initially: “When will Orest be allowed to return?” Klytämnestra
trembles, warning Elektra that she has forbidden Orest‟s name to be mentioned and reveals that Orest has become weak-minded, stammers, lives with dogs, and can no longer distinguish between man and beast. She claims that she has sent gold to those who safeguard him, ensuring that he is treated befitting a king‟s son. But Elektra contradicts her mother and accuses her of lying, claiming that her offer of gold was a reward for his death, because she fears he will return to avenge his father‟s murder. Klytämnestra refutes Elektra, proudly boasting that she has no fear of Orest, and is utterly confident in the protection of her guards and servants.
Klytämnestra returns to her obsession, commanding Elektra to reveal who must be sacrificed to placate the gods, and threatening Elektra with prison and starvation if she does not reveal her secret. Klytämnestra, like her daughter, expresses her monomania: her determination to know whose blood must flow in order that she may exorcise her demons.
Elektra forgoes her ironic pretence, unmasks herself, and explodes into a wild frenzy: she has manipulated her prey, finds her adequately vulnerable, and is now bloodthirsty for victory. She reveals to Klytämnestra whose blood must indeed flow: it will be the blood from Klytämnestra‟s throat when the avenger captures her. With savage glee and gruesome and vivid imagery, Elektra describes the avenging hunter stalking the corridors of the palace and creeping up to the sleeping Klytämnestra; he seizes her throat, but she screams and flees. Elektra then joins the avenger and they pursue her, eventually cornering her and taunting her about the horror of her certain doom. In the shadow, the apparition of Agamemnon blesses their deed, and the executed Klytämnestra will fall at his feet, the wretched woman‟s blood flowing from her neck. The avenger will be Orest, wielding the sacred axe against the desecrated woman and her paramour: all will rejoice because Klytämnestra will be the sacrifice to the gods; Klytämnestra‟s nightmares will end, Elektra will dream no more of revenge, and those who survive shall “know the joy of life.”
Elektra stands defiantly before Klytämnestra who shivers and cowers in fear. As she reels back speechless, they gaze at each other, both seething with intense passions of anger and hatred.
Klytämnestra‟s Confidante hastens in to whisper something into her mistress‟s ear. Suddenly, the Queen begins to relax, a smirk and evil expression of triumph replacing her anguish. She asks her Confidante to repeat the secret news to her, and then her terror transforms into hysterical joy and relief as she gallantly extends her hand to Elektra in a menacing gesture, and then sweeps away to enter the palace.
SCENE 5: Elektra and Chrysothemis
Elektra remains mystified, wondering what news brought her mother such sudden pleasure. Suddenly Chrysothemis rushes toward Elektra, screaming and crying in despair: Orest ist tot! “Orest is
dead!” Elektra is seized with denial, orders Chrysothemis to be silent, and is convinced that the news must be untrue.
Chrysothemis reveals that two strangers arrived at the palace bearing news that Orest was killed in a chariot race, trampled by his own horses. Suddenly, a slave rushes into the courtyard and calls for a swift horse: he has been ordered to bring the news of Orest‟s death to Aegisth who hunts in the country.
Elektra is torn between disbelief and despair, her long-nurtured hopes for revenge now destroyed. Mournfully, she realizes that if Agamemnon‟s death is to be avenged, she and her sister must fulfill the matricide themselves. Elektra frightens Chrysothemis, who shrinks from her in horror after she reveals that she hid the axe for the day when Orest returned to avenge their father‟s murderers. She urges Chrysothemis to join her: both will wield the axe this very night while the Queen and her paramour are asleep.
Elektra complains that she does not have the strength to fulfill the double deed alone, weakened by her long suffering. She cajoles and begs her sister to enlist her help, telling her that she is young, robust, and full of strength and vigor: “Your virgin nights have made you strong.” Elektra is undaunted, feverishly promising Chrysothemis that if she helps her, henceforth, she will be forever indebted to her and will become her slave; she will provide all of her future needs, and be a nursemaid to her child.
Chrysothemis reacts in shock and resists her sister‟s pleas, trying to dissuade Elektra from her
obsession and urging her to escape and be free. But in her fear and fright, the weaker Chrysothemis cannot rise to Elektra‟s heights of fury. With a final cry of “I cannot!,” she bolts away. Spurned and dejected, Elektra curses her with resolve; “I hate you!”
SCENE 6: Recognition scene, Elektra and Orest
Elektra resolves to do the deed herself. Trembling, noisily, and untiringly, she begins to dig for the buried axe like a savage animal, but she stops when a mysterious stranger appears before her. The stranger watches her, notes her slovenly appearance, and assumes that she is one of the maidservants. He announces that he is a herald of woe who has come to personally deliver a message to the Queen: he bore witness to Orest‟s death, crushed by his own horses. Elektra becomes grief-stricken, unable to bear
to think that this stranger lives, while her noble and beloved brother is dead, but she advises the stranger that the news will bring great joy in the palace.
Solemnly, the stranger announces that Orest was a noble man: he had loved life too much, and, therefore, angered the gods, who decreed his death. The stranger becomes moved by Elektra‟s profound anguish and passions of grief, and wonders whom this wretched woman can be who so deeply mourns the death of a member of the royal household. The stranger inquires if she might be kin of the dead Agamemnon and Orest, which prompts Elektra to reveal her identity: she is Elektra, Orest‟s sister. The
stranger is shocked, unable to understand her wild and crazed condition. Softly, he whispers to her that Orest lives, and that he is safe and sound.
Suddenly, an old servant prostrates himself before the stranger and kisses his feet; others arrive and embrace his hands and his robe. Surprised, Elektra inquires who the stranger is, and he replies, “The dogs of the house recognized me, but not my own sister!” In an ecstatic moment of recognition, Elektra cries out “Orest!,” and brother and sister embrace.
Elektra, drained by her madness, relinquishes all of her savagery as she pours out her joy, relief, and love for her brother. She excuses her abject condition, explaining that she was once the beautiful daughter of a mighty king, but she sacrificed her soul in homage to her father and her obsession for revenge; but all of her suffering was not in vain, because Orest has finally returned. Orest promises to fulfill his duty to avenge Agamemnon‟s death, and Elektra, relieved of tension and celebrating the bliss
of reunion, praises him and blesses his noble purpose.
Suddenly, Orest‟s tutor-companion interrupts him, advising him that he must appear before the
Queen, and reminding him that silence and cunning are necessary if they are to succeed in their task.
A servant with a torch appears and gestures that the two strangers follow her into the palace.
Alone, Elektra paces the courtyard in wild anxiety and becomes petrified when she realizes that she has forgotten to give Orest the axe. But from within, Klytämnestra is heard shrieking and Elektra cries out demonically, “Strike again!” The courtyard fills Chrysothemis and hysterical and frightened serving women who have heard Klytämnestra‟s death cries, but they scatter as Aegisth returns from the hunt.
Aegisth inquires about the strangers who came with news of Orest‟s death, and Elektra replies that they are in the palace where they have received a friendly welcome.
Aegisth strolls confidently towards the palace entrance and calls for attendants to light his way. With irony, Elektra disconcerts him and waves a torch, dancing around him with derisive zeal, bowing to him, and enveloping him seductively. She lures him to enter the palace by announcing that the strangers who came with news of Orest‟s death are inside, expressing their joy to the friendly hostess.
Aegisth enters the palace, and seconds later appears at a window, covered with blood, and calling for help while in the clutches of his murderers: “Does no one hear me?” Elektra responds, shouting in triumph and with maddening excitement: “Agamemnon hears you!” Aegisth is killed.
Chrysothemis and the women reappear to announce that Orest has slain Aegisth and Klytämnestra, and that all those faithful to Agamemnon are fighting to the death with Aegisth‟s soldiers and slaves. In
the palace, there is noise and tumult, and distant cries of “Orest!” joyously celebrate the defeat of the traitors; Elektra exults in the sounds of slaughter, the defeat of the traitors.
Chrysothemis acknowledges the grace and goodness of their gods because new life has returned. She urges Elektra to enter the palace where Orest is being honored, but Elektra, overcome by the ecstasy of her great moment of triumph, decides that she must lead a dance of victory. Chrysothemis enters the palace to join Orest.
Elektra becomes intoxicated by her triumph, exulting that she has been the instrument through which the gods have wrought their tardy justice. She erupts into her dance with unrestrained emotion and rapture, but her mind has shattered, crushed by her own demons; she is no longer conscious of her surroundings, and her dance become neurotically impassioned as if in a trauma.
Chrysothemis returns and shrinks away in terror as she witnesses Elektra at the climax of her dance; the celebration of the triumph of her will. Elektra bids that all be silent and join her, but in shock, they watch in horror. She continues her dance, her motions awkward and haunting. Suddenly, she collapses, falling lifeless to the ground.
Chrysothemis rushes to the palace and pounds on the locked door, crying vainly for Orest. The orchestra thunders the theme of “Agamemnon!”
Meet the Composer: Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949) became the foremost post-Wagnerian German composer during the
ththlate 19 and early 20 centuries. His fame was attributed to his genius as a composer of opera, lieder (or art songs), and symphonic tone poems. Strauss‟s musical style was distinctly different from the hyper-Romanticism of his predecessor, Richard Wagner: his musical Expressionism was unique, individual, and possessed an independent musical signature.
Strauss was born and educated in Munich, the son of Franz Strauss, recognized at the time as Germany‟s leading French horn virtuoso. From the age of 4, the young Richard devoted all of his energies to music: by age 18 his musical output had already become prodigious, and he had composed more than 140 works that included lieder, chamber, and orchestral pieces. Those early compositions were strongly influenced by his father: they were classical and rigidly formal in structure.
In 1884, at the age of 20, Strauss was commissioned by Hans von Bülow to compose the Suite for
13 Winds for the Meiningen orchestra: the young composer conducted the work‟s premiere, which led to
his appointment as assistant conductor of the orchestra, and henceforth, he became eminent throughout Europe as both composer and conductor. Strauss proceeded to conduct major orchestras in both Germany and Austria, achieving praise for his interpretations of Mozart and Wagner, which eventually led to his appointment as director of the Royal Court Opera in Berlin (1898-1919) and musical co-director of the Vienna State Opera (1919-1924).
Strauss‟s musical compositions fall into three distinct periods. His first period (1880-87) includes a Sonata for Cello and Piano (1883), the Burleske for piano and orchestra (1885), and the symphonic
fantasy, Aus Italien (1887), “From Italy,” the latter heavily influenced by the styles of Liszt and Wagner;
in Strauss‟s early compositions, he expressed his admiration for Wagner in secret so as not to affront the elder Strauss who detested Wagner both musically and personally.
In Strauss‟s second creative period (1887-1904), his unique musical style burst forth, in particular,
his unprecedented mastery of orchestration. Like Franz Liszt, Strauss abandoned classical forms in order to express his musical ideas in the programmatic symphonic tone poem, an orchestral medium that was totally free from the restrictive forms of classical styles. Strauss perfected the tone poem genre, imbuing it with profound drama that he achieved through the recurrence and interweaving of leitmotif themes, and the exploitation of the expressive power of a huge orchestra, the latter saturated with impassioned melodiousness, descriptive instrumentation, and harmonic richness.
Strauss‟s symphonic poems dominated his musical output during his second creative period: Don
Juan (1889), Macbeth (1890), Tod und Verklärung, “Death and Transfiguration,” (1890), Till
Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, “Till Eulenspiegel‟s Merry Pranks,” (1895), Also Sprach Zarathustra,
“Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” (1896), Don Quixote (1897), and Ein Heldenleben, “A Hero‟s Life,” (1898),
the latter portraying Strauss himself as the hero who was battling his adversarial critics. In 1903, he composed the Symphonia Domestica for a huge orchestra, its programmatic theme described a full day in the Strauss family‟s household, a portrait that included duties tending to the children, marital quarrels, and even the intimacy of the bedroom.
Strauss endowed the tone poem form with a new vision and a new language through innovative harmonies and sophisticated instrumentation that vastly expanded the expressive possibilities of the modern symphony orchestra; nevertheless, his textures were always refined and possessed an almost chamber-music delicacy. His Expressionism is magnificently demonstrated in works such as Till
thEulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks in which instrumental colors depict the 14 century rogue‟s adventures
amid the sounds of pots and pans, and the hero‟s murmurs as he goes to the gallows: in Also Sprach
Zarathustra, ostensibly a homage to Nietzsche, the essences of man and nature are brilliantly contrasted
through varying tonalities; and in Don Quixote, the music magically captures images of sheep,
windmills, and flying horses.
In Strauss‟s third period (1904-49), he became the foremost opera composer in the world. Earlier, he had composed his first opera, Guntram (1894), but it was a failure, considered a slavish imitation of Wagner. Likewise, his second opera, Feuersnot (1902), “Fire-Famine,” was a satirical comic opera
about small town prudery and hypocrisy that was also poorly received. Strauss was not yet in full command of his operatic powers.
In 1905, Strauss emerged into operatic greatness with Salome, a blasphemous, scandalous,
explosive, and unprecedented “shocker” that portrayed female erotic obsessions. Salome immediately
became a major triumph, although notable exceptions were in Vienna where the powerful prelates forbade Gustav Mahler to stage it, and at the New York Metropolitan Opera House, where it was canceled because of its scandalous subject matter. Strauss followed with Elektra (1909), his first
collaboration with the Austrian poet and dramatist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Elektra, like Salome,
became another exploration into female fixations, in the latter, a monomania for revenge.
Both Salome and Elektra were composed for the opera stage as one-act operas; as such, they possess intense and concentrated musical drama. Strauss, a contemporary of Zola, Ibsen, Wilde, and the fin du siècle malaise, demonstrated in these operas his mastery at conveying psychological shock and intense emotion through the power of his music. He was a musical dramatist par excellence – as well as
a musical psychologist – who was most comfortable with emotionally complex and supercharged characters: Salome, Elektra, and later, the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier (1911). Both Salome and
Elektra contain furious explosions of human emotion, pathological passion, perversity, horror, terror, and madness: nevertheless, both operas profoundly reflect the new discoveries in psychiatry that were
thevolving during the early 20 century.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal eventually exercised a profound influence on Strauss: they collaborated on six operas, all of which considered Strauss‟s finest works. After Elektra, Strauss abandoned the violence
and psychological realism of “shock” opera and composed Der Rosenkavalier, a “comedy in music” set
thin 18 century Vienna; a sentimental story evoking tenderness, nostalgia, romance, and humor, that is accented by the sentimentality of its anachronistic waltzes.
With Hofmannsthal, Strauss composed Ariadne auf Naxos (1912, revised 1916), a play-within-a-
play that blends commedia dell’arte satire with classical tragedy, but combines the delicacy of Mozart with overtones of Wagnerian heroism: the philosophical Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919),“The Woman
without a Shadow,” a symbolic and deeply psychological fairy tale in which the spiritual and real worlds collide; Intermezzo (1924), a thinly disguised Strauss with his wife, Pauline, in a “domestic comedy” involving misunderstandings emanating from a misdirected love letter from an unknown female admirer; Die äegyptische Helena (1928), “The Egyptian Helen,” based on an episode from Homer‟s Odyssey; and
Strauss‟s final collaboration with Hofmannsthal, Arabella (1933), which returns to the ambience of Der
Rosenkavalier’s Vienna and amorous intrigues.
After Hofmannsthal‟s death, Strauss composed operas with other librettists, though never equaling his earlier successes: Die Schweigsame Frau (1935), “The Silent Woman,” a delightful comedy written
to a libretto by Stefan Zweig after Ben Jonson; Friedenstag (1938), “Peace Day”; Daphne (1938); Midas
(1939); Die Liebe der Danae, “The Love of Danae” completed in 1940 but not staged until 1952; and his final opera, Capriccio (1942), an opera-about-an-opera described by its authors as “a conversation
piece for music” in which the relative importance of opera‟s text and music is argued.
Strauss was most fertile in producing songs – lieder – some of the finest after those of Schumann
and Brahms: among the most esteemed are Zueignung, “Dedication,” (1882-83) and Morgen,
“Morning,” (1893-94). Other works include the ballet Josephslegende, “Legend of Joseph,” (1914), Eine
Alpensinfonie, “Alpine Symphony,” (1915), and Vier Letzte Lieder, “Four Last Songs” (1948).