“Our chief joint work”. Notes on Richard Strauss’ and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s “Die Frau ohne Schatten” Creation


Building upon the correspondence between Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, as well as other documentary sources, this paper discusses in detail the complicated and prolonged process of the creation of the opera “Die Frau ohne Schatten”, from the first drafts of the libretto in 1910 to the opera’s first staging in 1919. This opera, considered paramount by both authors, can be regarded as their collective “opus magnum”. Hofmannsthal devoted a lot of time and effort to the libretto, amalgamating numerous sources, literary motifs, quotations, references to various texts of the European culture. As a result, he created a fairy tale abounding with symbols, allegories and theatrical “miracles” and at the same time conveying a profound ethical message, which carries on the tradition of the Baroque and Classicism theatre. 
The opera composed by Strauss also has a universal, generalizing character. The diversity and exuberance of this grand work is unprecedented for the composer. It combines compositional novelties of his expressionist operas (“Salome”, “Elektra”) with the nuanced, intimate character of music and the innovative treatment of voice discovered in “Ariadne auf Naxos”. At the same time, “Die Frau ohne Schatten” summarizes the development of the opera theatre since Wagner. On the one hand, the influence of Wagner (and, in particular, of his last music drama “Parsifal”) is apparent in Strauss’s composition. On the other hand, “Die Frau ohne Schatten” culminates the development of the genre of Märchenoper, which flourished in German-speaking countries after Wagner and was considered a viable alternative to the opera works of Wagner's numerous imitators. Strauss and Hofmannsthal raise the Märchenoper, which evolved from unpretentious folklore tradition, to the level of philosophical and ethical generalization, as if restoring it to Wagner’s metaphysical origins. Thus, “Die Frau ohne Schatten”, staged in the aftermath of the World War I, becomes the last pinnacle of German Romantic opera, encapsulating the diverse patterns of this genre.


1. Vlasova, N. (2015). «Ariadna na Naksose» Rikharda Shtrausa— Gugo fon Gofmanstalya: istoriya v pis’makh [Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal: the History in Letters]. Nauchnyy vestnik Moskovskoy konservatorii [Journal of Moscow Conservatory], No. 4/2015, 140–175. (in Russian)

2. Gete, I. V. (1996). Tayny [Goethe, J. W. Geheimnisse]. In Gete, I. V. Tayny. Skazka; R. Shtayner. O Gete [Goethe, J. W. Geheimnisse. Das Märchen. Steiner, R. Über Goethe], 8–27. Moscow, Enigma. (in Russian)

3. Kessler, H. (2017). [O Dyagileve, Rodene, Ril’ke]. Dnevniki 1911–1914 [Kessler, H. Über Diaghilev, Rodin, Rilke. Tagebücher 1911–1914], translated by T. Vereshhagina. Moscow, Agraf. (in Russian)

4. _________. (1960). Rikhard Shtraus i Romen Rollan. Perepiska. Vyderzhki iz dnevnika [Richard Strauss and Romain Rolland. Correspondence. Extracts from the Diary], translated by M. P. Volkonskiy; compiled and annotated by A. A. Nikolaev. Moscow, Gosudarstvennoe muzykal’noe izdatel’stvo. (in Russian)

5. Bekker, P. (1921).“Die Frau ohne Schatten”. In Bekker, P. Kritische Zeitbilder, 118–134. Berlin, Schuster & Loeffler.

6. Bienenfeld, E. (1919). Feuilleton: “Die Frau ohne Schatten”. Neues Wiener Journal, 11.10.1919, 3–4.

7. Brzoska, M. (2005). Traditionsbezüge und Traditionswechsel in der TheaterDramaturgie von Richard Strauss. In Richard Strauss und das Musiktheater: Bericht über die Internationale Fachkonferenz in Bochum, 14.–17. November 2001, hrsg. von J. Liebscher, 61–70. (Veröffentlichungen der Richard-Strauss-Gesellschaft; Bd. 19). Berlin, Henschel Verlag.

8. _____________. (1998). Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Ausgabe. Bd. XXV.I: Operndichtungen 3.1 , hrsg. von H.-A. Koch. Frankfurt/Main, S. Fischer Verlag.

9. Konrad, C. (1988). “Die Frau ohne Schatten” von Hugo von Hofmannsthal und Richard Strauss: Studien zur Genese, zum Textbuch und zur Rezeptionsgeschichte. Hamburg, Karl Dieter Wagner.

10. Korngold, J. (1919). Feuilleton: Operntheater: “Die Frau ohne Schatten”. Neue Freie Presse, 11.10.1919, 1–4.

11. Lesnig, G. (1994). 75 Jahre “Die Frau ohne Schatten”. Richard Strauss-Blätter. Neue Folge, H. 32, Dezember 1994, 3–83.

12. _________. (1978). Richard Strauss — Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Briefwechsel, hrsg. von W. Schuh. Zürich, Atlantis Musikbuch-Verlag.

13. ___________. (1914). Richard Strauss. Zum 50. Geburtstage des Tondichters (11. Juni). Neues Wiener Journal, 06.06.1914, 4.

14. Specht, R. (1919). Die Frau ohne Schatten: thematische Einführung. Berlin, Fürstner.

15. Strauss, R. (1980). Erinnerungen an die ersten Aufführungen meiner Opern. In Richard Strauss. Dokumente: Aufsätze, Aufzeichnungen, Vorworte, Reden, Briefe, hrsg. von E. Krause, 135–153. Leipzig, Verlag Philipp Reclam.

16. ______. (1967). “Der Strom der Töne trug mich fort”. Die Welt um Richard Strauss in Briefen, hrsg. von F. Grasberger. Tutzing, Schneider.

17. Zweig, S. (n. d.) Die Welt von Gestern. Kapitel 17: Incipit Hitler. Available at: https:// gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/die-welt-von-gestern-6858/17 (accessed 20.07.2019)