Episode: A posthumous premiere for Richard Strauss


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A posthumous premiere for Richard Strauss
There was a time when German opera houses would have fought over the chance to premiere a brand-new opera by Richard Strauss. But by 1940, when Strauss finished a mythological opera entitled “The Love of Danae,” there was a war on and Strauss had fallen out of favor with Germany’s Nazi rulers. A scheduled premiere in Dresden had to be cancelled. In Leipzig, the orchestral parts for the new opera were lost in a fire, and in Munich an Allied air raid damaged the opera’s sets and scenery. By the summer of 1944, when conductor Clemens Krauss was rehearsing handpicked vocal soloists and the Vienna Philharmonic for the opera’s belated premiere at the Salzburg Festival, the collapse of the Third Reich was imminent. On August 1st, an order was issued from Berlin canceling all music festivals and closing all theaters. Somehow Salzburg managed to get a dispensation, and rehearsals for Strauss’s opera were allowed to continue. A private dress rehearsal of “The Love of Danae” took place in Salzburg on August 14, 1944. The 80-year old composer attended, and, with tears in his eyes, thanked the performers with these words: “Perhaps we shall meet again in a better world.” Strauss died in 1949, and it wasn’t until today’s date three years later that the first public performance of “The Love of Danae” occurred at the 1952 Salzburg Festival.

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