is the final opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...
composer Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...
, subtitled "A Conversation Piece for Music". The opera received its premiere performance at the Nationaltheater München on October 28, 1942. Clemens Krauss
Clemens Heinrich Krauss was an Austrian conductor and opera impresario, particularly associated with the music of Richard Strauss.-Biography:...
and Strauss himself wrote the German
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...
. However, the genesis of the libretto came from Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most famous writers in the world.- Biography :...
in the 1930s, and Joseph Gregor
Joseph Gregor was an Austrian theatre historian and librettist.Originally recommended by Stefan Zweig, he wrote three librettos for Richard Strauss: Friedenstag , Daphne and Die Liebe der Danae , as well as contributing to the texts of Capriccio and the posthumous school opera Des Esels...
further developed the idea several years later. Strauss then took on the libretto, but finally recruited Krauss as his collaborator on the opera. Most of the final libretto is by Krauss.
||Premiere, October 28, 1942
(Conductor: Clemens Krauss)
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...
Viorica Ursuleac was an important Romanian operatic soprano.Viorica Ursuleac was born the daughter of a Greek Orthodox archdeacon, in Chernivtsi, which is now in Ukraine. Following training in Vienna, she made her operatic debut in Zagreb , as Charlotte in Massenet's Werther, in 1922...
|Clairon, an actress
Contralto is the deepest female classical singing voice, with the lowest tessitura, falling between tenor and mezzo-soprano. It typically ranges between the F below middle C to the second G above middle C , although at the extremes some voices can reach the E below middle C or the second B above...
Hildegard Ranczak was a Bohemian operatic soprano, particularly associated with Richard Strauss roles, and largely based in Germany....
|Flamand, a musician
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...
|Olivier, a poet
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...
Hans Hotter was a German operatic bass-baritone, admired internationally after World War II for the power, beauty, and intelligence of his singing, especially in Wagner operas. He was extremely tall and his appearance was striking because of his high, narrow face, wide mouth, and big, aquiline nose...
|The Count, the Countess's brother
|La Roche, director of a theatre
A bass is a type of male singing voice and possesses the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C...
Georg Hann was an Austrian operatic bass-baritone, particularly associated with the comic German repertory....
| Musicians and servants
The theme of the opera can be summarized as "Which is the greater art, poetry or music?" This question is dramatized in the story of a Countess torn between two suitors: Olivier, a poet, and Flamand, a composer.
- Place: A chateau near Paris
- Time: 1775
At the Countess Madeleine's château, a rehearsal of Flamand's newly composed sextet is in progress. Olivier and Flamand debate the relative powers of music and words. The theatre director La Roche wakes from a nap, and reminds them both that impresarios are necessary to bring their work to life. Olivier has written a new play for the Countess's birthday the next day, and they proceed to a rehearsal.
The Countess and her brother, the Count, have a discussion about their respective suitors. He teases his sister that her love of music parallels Flamand's attention to her. In turn, she tells her brother that his love of words is in keeping with his attraction to the actress Clairon. The Count is inclined toward brief affairs, but the Countess wants long-lasting love. She cannot decide between Flamand and Olivier. Clairon arrives, and she and the Count read a scene from Olivier's play, which culminates in a love sonnet. They leave for the rehearsal in the theatre.
Olivier tells the Countess that he means the sonnet for her. Flamand then sets the sonnet to music and sings it, which appalls Olivier. Olivier is asked to make cuts to his play. Flamand declares his love for the Countess. She asks him to meet her in the library the next morning at 11, when she will give him her decision. Refreshments are served as dancers and singers entertain the guests. La Roche describes his planned two-part birthday entertainment, the "Birth of Pallas Athene" followed by the "Fall of Carthage". The guests mock him, but La Roche defends his faith in the theatre. After he challenges Flamand and Olivier to create new masterworks, the Countess commissions them to collaborate on an opera. The Count proposes that the opera depict the events of that afternoon.
The Count and Clairon depart for Paris with the theatre company. In the final scene, as moonlight shines, the Countess learns that both Olivier and Flamand will meet her in the library to learn the ending of the opera. Still undecided, she sings of the inseparability of words and music, and consults her image in the mirror for a decision. The major-domo announces that "Dinner is served" and the opera ends.