Richard Strauss’s connection to Dresden, the Staatskapelle and the Semperoper was a turning point in Germany’s music history. After the young composer first visited the city in 1883, an intensive artistic and creative bond developed with the Staatskapelle, the opera and its music directors over the ensuing decades. Nine of his 15 operas were premiered in Dresden, including »Elektra«, »Arabella« and »Der Rosenkavalier«, while Strauss composed instrumental works especially for the Staatskapelle, such as the mighty »Alpine Symphony«.
The great enthusiasm for the works of Richard Strauss, whether at Staatskapelle concerts or chamber music recitals, on the Semperoper’s opera stage or at guest performances, has never waned over the ensuing decades. Richard Strauss Days have been held at the Semperoper at irregular intervals since 1909, most recently in 2015. During the »Richard Strauss Days at the Semperoper« in 2023, the Semperoper and the Staatskapelle Dresden together with their principal conductor, Christian Thielemann, will present a diverse programme of works by this major composer, documenting Strauss’s close relationship with the Semperoper and the Staatskapelle. At the same time, the world of Vienna, the fin de siècle and the Rococo period will be brought back to life and voice through the operas »Der Rosenkavalier« and »Arabella«.
The fact that Dresden became a »Strauss city« was indirectly due to the artistic director of the Court Opera Unter den Linden, one Bolko von Hochberg. When the newly appointed Kapellmeister Richard Strauss wanted to bring his opera »Feuersnot« to the imperial court theatre in Berlin, the theatre management (and the censors) refused to approve the ironic period piece. And so Dresden seized its opportunity: Ernst von Schuch, later a tireless champion of Strauss and the conductor of many of his premieres, brought the world premiere to the Saxon capital on the Elbe in 1901 »despite some moral quibbles«.
With the premiere of »Salome« in Dresden in 1905, Richard Strauss sensationally launched what today is generally considered to be the first work of modern music theatre in the 20th century. »Elektra«, which premiered in Dresden in 1909, was also enthusiastically received, before being eclipsed just two years later by the premiere of »Der Rosenkavalier«, when critics and music lovers travelled to Dresden in special trains to witness this musical phenomenon. In 1912 Ernst von Schuch was still able to direct the first version of »Ariadne auf Naxos« shortly after its premiere in Stuttgart. When von Schuch died in 1914, Richard Strauss himself took charge of the memorial concert for the conductor.
Fritz Busch continued the tradition of Strauss premieres with »Intermezzo« (1924) and »Die ägyptische Helena« (1928). Richard Strauss clearly held Busch in great esteem: in 1932 he dedicated the finished score to his next opera »Arabella« to the Dresden conductor. When Fritz Busch was removed from office in 1933 by the Nazi cultural authorities, this did not prevent Richard Strauss from staging »Arabella« here under the baton of Clemens Krauss. The first performance of the opera »Die schweigsame Frau«, conducted by Karl Böhm, also took place under the shadow of Nazi Germany. While Richard Strauss managed to have the banned writer Stefan Zweig named on the playbill as the librettist, the work was dropped from the programme after only four performances. The ninth and final Strauss opera to be premiered in Dresden was »Daphne« on 15 October 1938. The dedicatee was Karl Böhm.