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Thread: Ranking The Operas of Strauss

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    Senior Member Xavier's Avatar
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    Default Ranking The Operas of Strauss

    I would rank "Die Frau ohne Schatten" as tied with "Elektra" for Number One among Strauss operas. My rankings would be as follows:

    1/2 Elektra/Die Frau ohne Schatten

    3. Rosenkavalier

    4. Salome

    5. Ariadne auf Naxos

    6. Arabella

    7. Capriccio

    8. Dafne

    9. All the rest, in no particular order


    I would rank "Frau" number one except for the music in the final section of the opera -- roughly from after "Wenn das Herz aus Kristal" through the end of the final quartet. I find much of this music trite, noisy and cheap-sounding.... I feel that Strauss is striving for some kind of cathartic happy ending but just can't pull it off. He goes into his "auto-pilot" mode and just recycles themes. (The quiet close of the opera is nice and does a bit to redeem the previous lapses.) On the other hand, the entire rest of the opera is superb, and it is far and away the most ambitious work Strauss ever attempted. He comes close to pulling it off until the very end.

    For me the "Frau" ending is probably the biggest musical letdown in all opera.

    "Elektra," on the other hand, IMO has no real weaknesses - unless one considers the unrelenting grimness of the drama a weakness. It is simply the most harrowing musical experience I know of, except perhaps for "Wozzeck." And yet, I find "Elektra" strangely uplifting too. Just in terms of execution, it surpasses "Frau" - but then, it doesn't reach as far as "Frau" does, either. Hence, the tie between the two operas.

    "Rosenkavalier" is delightful, of course, and in the Marschallin it plumbs some profound depths of human feeling. I love it. But I rank it after "Frau" and "Elektra" because it is, over all, a less profound work, and also because there are many passages in which Strauss is in his note- spinning mode. Granted, no one wrote better musical wallpaper than Strauss, but it is still wallpaper.

    "Salome" comes after the others because while it is musically brilliant, its fin de siecle decadence is just too dated for my tastes. And apart from being a fascinating study in obsession, it has almost nothing to offer in terms of depth of meaning or content. I have always thought Joseph Kerman's epithet thrown at "Tosca", "shabby little shocker", is more appropriate for "Salome."

    "Ariadne" has many delightful moments, especially in the Prologue, and its chamber scoring is one of the finest things Strauss ever did. But there are too many dull patches in the Opera proper - especially the interminable and very un-funny scene with the Commedia dell'arte team after Zerbinetta's aria, and then the noisy, bombastic longueurs of the final duet.

    I won't go on. Those are my rankings on Strauss' operas.

    I look forward to reading other assessments.

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    I have three of your top four - the only R. Strauss ones I have, in fact. I really enjoy them but strangely despite Strauss's overall consistency I've never been tempted to investigate further.

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    Senior Member guythegreg's Avatar
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    I haven't experienced all of his operas, and my taste has been evolving too - not prepared to rank them, sorry! So far I haven't enjoyed his music very much; his drama, his librettos, are all over the map, from banal to subtle to ... ??? all over. Sometimes I think the different pieces of Strauss' world aren't actually connected with one another! I will say that I don't enjoy Rosenkavalier nearly as much as most people seem to; where others perceive subtlety and depth I see only a woman afraid, like any aging cheerleader, of getting older.

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    My personal favourites are Capriccio, Ariadne and Salome... I have also a soft spot for Die ägyptische Helena.

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    I love Ariadne; the concept, or plot, or whathaveyou is my favourite in all opera - observant and clever and poking fun at its own self consciousness = just great. The Prologue is a gem of music + words but it's true that the Opera is not on par. Thank goodness for Zerbinetta's mad aria (by the way, what a fun character she is!). I also love Die Frau = the music is so interesting and exciting and I would argue with you that, although it's as intense going as Elektra, it manages to not overstay its welcome, as Elektra does for me. What a great achievement! Der Rosenkavalier - what's not to love?! a whiny MILF, a mama's boy, a socially conscious ingenue and a boorish middle aged man! (that was for you, greg, haha!). But, seriously, I love it. Act II slows it down a bit and I'm not particularly fond of the mega trio at the end, but for over 3 hours of music it's lush and gorgeous and very funny but also heartfelt. Capriccio - lovely and clever little metaphor. I'm sure Salome is fun to see in the theatre but I'll take the above before it.

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    Oo. A touch, I do confess it. I fear I breathe my last...

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    Member Glissando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cerendy View Post

    "Salome" comes after the others because while it is musically brilliant, its fin de siecle decadence is just too dated for my tastes. And apart from being a fascinating study in obsession, it has almost nothing to offer in terms of depth of meaning or content. I have always thought Joseph Kerman's epithet thrown at "Tosca", "shabby little shocker", is more appropriate for "Salome."
    I think Salome has depth of meaning. I think we are meant to identify with Salome, despite her immoral nature (this is similar to how Macbeth is a hero-villain in his play). The work is in part a satire on religious righteousness, and in part it is a sincere exploration of love in all its forms. Musically and dramatically, I think it's Strauss's best opera.

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    Salome stands as my clear favorite. I don't see how its "fin de siecle decadence" is any more dated than Schubert's Romanticism or Haydn's Classicism. Besides... how can you go wrong with all that lust and sex and violence and Oscar Wilde... to say nothing of the gorgeous music? Of course the brilliant film with Teresa Stratas as Salome goes some distance toward assuring my allegiance.

    Der Rosenkavalier comes in a close second. Contrary to some opinions, I don't feel that Strauss lost his edge after Elektra. Perhaps Strauss most human drama... and considering the available performances...



    ... it may be the best represented in recording.

    Elektra comes in third... in a close competition with Der Rosenkavalier. Another brilliant contrast between the gorgeous music and the horror of the drama.

    Die Frau ohne Schatten- This opera grabbed me on the first hearing...



    Since then I've heard several other performances and Die Frau only continues to grow in my esteem...

    Ariadne auf Naxos- Is a nearly Post-Modern opera... playing in a Shakespearean manner with the "play within a play"... set to some truly lovely music.

    Daphne... is the last Strauss opera that I can honestly rate... with the exception of Die ägyptische Helena which suffers from a libretto so comically bad (an all seeing sea mollusk?) that I can only listen to it for the music... some of which is quite lovely.

    I have yet to listen enough (or at all) to Intermezzo, Arabella, Die schweigsame Frau, Die Liebe der Danae, or Capriccio in order to make a fair judgment. I don't even own a copy of Guntram, Feursnot, or Friedenstag.
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    Yes, some of the music from Die ägyptische Helena is quite lovely. My favorite part is this very beautiful aria, "Zweite Brautnacht!":

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynWK2YuTBPw

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    Senior Member Sloe's Avatar
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    At the moment.

    Elektra
    Daphne
    Salome

    I find the other ones a bit difficult to listen to.

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    I like the all, if I have to rank them I will do the others no justice, such different subjects.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    My favorite Strauss opera is definitely Die Fledermaus

    (Nothing was said about which Strauss)

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    Senior Member Zhdanov's Avatar
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    1. Salome
    2. Elektra
    3. Der Rosenkavalier
    4. Ariadne Auf Naxos
    5. Die Frau Ohne Schatten

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    My appetite for opera blows hot and cold, but I've been exploring several R Strauss operas this summer. I enjoyed Salome (Solti) and Ariadne Auf Naxos (Levine) immediately. And parts of Die Frau Ohne Schatten (Solti). And not much of Der Rosenkavalier (Bohm). But it's a long road trying to absorb these works, much less listening to different recordings.
    Short-term thinkers are rewarded with reelection, while those who dare to take seriously our responsibility to future generations commonly find themselves out of office.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    I suppose I like Die Frau ohne Schatten best, for its fairytale quality. I keep hearing the amazingly orchestrated "falcon" motif and the "turned to stone" harmonic progression going around in my head. But generally I really don't warm much to any of the Strauss operas, which is odd considering that they're "Wagnerian" in musical approach. I've never felt that Salome and Elektra are quite serious - too much of a burlesque and a creep show, respectively, all just for maximum "effect," and I can't empathize with anyone on stage, or care what happens to them, which is probably good considering what does happen to them. Rosenkavalier has yummy-sweet-rich sachertorte parts but too many other parts, so I'll settle for excerpts of that one. Ariadne is more intriguing, at least in concept, and I'd like to see it in the theater. Daphne has a pretty monologue for a Renee Fleming but is uninteresting otherwise, and I probably feel the same way about Capriccio and Arabella, which have excessively talky libretti and much correspondingly busy but tuneless music.

    My personal ranking:

    1. Die Frau ohne Schatten
    2. Ariadne auf Naxos
    3. Salome and Elektra
    4. Rosenkavalier
    5. all the rest
    Last edited by Woodduck; Aug-24-2016 at 17:26.

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