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Strauss, Salome: Strauss's Operas

By Ben Webster

Max Tielke, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Strauss's Operas

Aside from his younger and more immature works, Richard Strauss composed primarily orchestral tone poems and art song earlier in his career, for which he was well-renowned by the end of the nineteenth century. Salome was not Strauss's first attempt at opera. Rather, Strauss had attempted two operas before composing Salome, both of which were relatively unsuccessful. In 1892-1903, he composed his first opera, Guntram. This composition was written well after several of his most celebrated works, such as Don Juan and Tod und Verklärung. Guntram was not met by exuberant praise from its audiences.  In 1900-01 Strauss wrote his second opera, Feuersnot. However, Strauss yet again failed to please audiences. In these first two operas, Strauss was deeply influenced by the Wagnerian style and lacked enough innovation to capture acclaim from progressive audiences. But between 1903-05, Strauss wrote his third opera— Salome— that accordingly proved himself to be an ingenious operatic composer, finding redemption after the failures of his earlier attempts. Through this opera, Strauss broke through the emotional and psychological barriers of the time, strengthening music’s ability to describe a narrative. Today, Salome has become a staple in the operatic canon. After Salome, Strauss continued to make an impact on the opera world through landmark works like Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Capriccio, amongst many others.