Book "The Performances of Richard Strauss Operas in the 20th Century" - In 2 Volumes May 27 2021

During a hot weekend in August 1973 I sat on my terrace and lookedDie Auffuhrungen der Opern von Richard Strauss im 20. Jahrhundertthrough old magazines not yet read and found an article which stated that one has to choose his hobby for the time after retiring at the latest at the age of forty, otherwise it will not work. I already had more than 40 years, no Hobby, only concentrated in my career. In one of the next magazines, I read an article about the composer Richard Strauss. I liked his operas and for years I tried to hear them in theatres around the world as often as possible. So I decided that Richard Strauss will become my Hobby, and I will collect programs/cast-pages of the worldwide performances of his operas.

I subscribed to 9 opera magazines to know the performance dates and started to write to opera houses, asking to kindly send me the programs/cast-pages, adding always a label with my address and when possible a stamp or a bank-note for the postage.

And I also tried to find information and programs/cast-pages from the performances in previous years, beginning from the world premiere of his operas. I personally had been for research in more than 80 libraries, and also consulted and bought many books about theatres and performances.

When the secretary of the INTERNATIONAL RICHARD STRAUSS SOCIETY in Vienna heard of my activities, he invited me to write for the RICHARD STRAUSS BLÄTTER, the magazine they published and I wrote articles about 13 operas and the ballet JOSEPHSLEGENDE. And he later also encouraged me to write a book about my research, which because of the quantity of information found, became a book in 2 volumes: DIE AUFFÜHRUNGEN DER OPERN VON RICHARD STRAUSS IM 20. JAHRHUNDERT. Casts of 6929 performances with conductor, director and singers of the principal parts are listed in form of tables and more than 13.000 artists are named, who performed in 586 cities in all 5 continents.

Die Auffuhrungen der opern von Richard Strauss 20. Jahrhundert - By Gunther Lesnig

Written in German, but easy to consult also for readers non-German speakers, as there are 1164 pages with tables, lists and indexes and only 64 pages with German text. 2 pages with important information are translated in English in volume 2.

Absolutely necessary for the writing of the books had been the creation of a database with all performance dates and casts found, stored in a computer program created especially for me. Already before publication of the books, I made an arrangement with the RICHARD STRAUSS INSTITUT in Garmisch-Partenkirchen-Germany and they took over my collection and database, actually 10.846 original programs/cast-pages and about 12600 copies, and 37.000 performance dates and casts. They are available there for researchers and interested private persons.

I started to go to theatres to hear operas at the age of 14, first opera Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” in Klagenfurt-Austria where I had been born. During the years, when I studied at the University in Vienna, I always had 2 or 3 evenings a week at the Opera, strictly standing-room. My favourites at that time had been “Tiefland” (Eugen d’Albert), “Cavalleria Rusticana” (Pietro Mascagni) and “Faust-Margarete” (Charles Gounod), and later “Boris Godunov” (Modest Musorgskij).

Up to now, I have seen 286 different operas from various composers, in total about 2000 performances, 553 of these with operas of Richard Strauss. But I became a Strauss fan very late. I had only heard one ARIADNE AUF NAXOS in my hometown (and did not like it, at less than 16 years I did not understand it) and in Vienna also some SALOME (because of the singer Ljuba Welitsch) and DER ROSENKAVALIER (because a girlfriend liked the trio in Act 3), when at my age of 28, a colleague in the office quasi forced me to go and hear the opera ELEKTRA, because it is unbelievable that with all my opera going I did not know this opera. 

I left the theatre overwhelmed and impressed and wanted right away to attend another performance but there had been none because of the preparation for the opening of the rebuilt Vienna Opera house.

For this event, also the Strauss Opera DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN had been scheduled, completely unknown to me. But I switched on the radio when they transmitted the opera premiere live and again I had been so overwhelmed and impressed by Act 1, that during the intermission I walked to the nearby Opera house, where the traffic had been blocked and hundreds of opera lovers listened to the radio transmission standing on their feet in the street. With them I heard Act2 and 3 and definitely became a Richard Strauss Fan.

Now my favourite operas are obviously from Richard Strauss, ARIADNE AUF NAXOS and DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN and I cannot say which one comes first. I travelled whenever possible especially for DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, for instance to the first performance in Sweden 1975 in Stockholm and the first in Greece 2002 in Athens.

Once I attended a convention in San Francisco and learned about performances of this opera some days after the end of the meeting. I bought a ticket and in the days between I visited Yosemite National Park. And as my own gift to me for my 75th birthday, I booked a flight to New York to hear on the exact day DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN at the Metropolitan Opera (the same did not work for my 80th birthday – only 2 days afterwards I heard the opera in Karlsruhe-Germany, but it worked again for my 85th birthday in Munich).

A highlight had been the performance in Vienna October 10 2019 at the 100th birthday of the opera (world premiere in Vienna 10.10.1919), and also my 100th performance of the opera. I heard another one 2 days later and so my final account of DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN is 101 performances in the theatre in 46 different productions, compared with 94 performances of ARIADNE AUF NAXOS in 55 different productions.

I still try to find new information and missing original programs/cast-pages or copies of them, to donate them to the RICHARD STRAUSS INSTITUT in Germany. For instance more details about the touring in the United States and Canada of the New York based SAN CARLO OPERA COMPANY with the opera SALOME in the early 1920th, or the performances in New York of the LIEDERKRANZ OPERA THEATRE, operas CAPRICCIO in 1985, DER ROSENKAVALIER and ARIADNE AUF NAXOS 1986, ARABELLA 1987, DAPHNE 1990 and STUYVESANT OPERA with DER ROSENKAVALIER and ELEKTRA both 1975.

Gunther Lesnig


- Lesnig, Gunther - Performances of the Operas of Richard Strauss in the 20th Century - 2 Volumes.

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