Bidding Starts on Handwritten Richard Strauss Manuscript

By Logan Martell

On June 26, 2018, bidders at the Nat D. Sanders Auctions will have the chance to go home with a piece of opera history.

The item is question is the manuscript for the finale of Richard Strauss’ 1935 opera “Die schweigsame Frau,” or “The Silent Woman.” The opera itself was the subject of controversy in the 1930s due to Richard Strauss’ complicated relationship with the Nazi party of Germany, as well as his partnership with Jewish Austrian librettist Stefan Zweig. While Strauss was able to use his favor with the Nazis to allow the opera to be performed, with Zweig credited for its writing, Hitler would ban the work in Germany after intercepting letters from Strauss that contained anti-Nazi sentiments. The opera would go on to enjoy performances in Graz, Austria, as well as Prague.

Of the manuscript itself, the listing describes it thusly: “Strauss elegantly hand writes the vocal score for bass voice (sung by the lead character ”Sir Morosus”, who here sings ”Wie schon ist doch die musik”, or ”How beautiful music is”) and piano, comprising eighty-six bars on 12-stave paper printed by B. & H. Nr. 5. C., with their watermark. With a few alterations to the words and music, such as ”wunderbar erst wenn sie die Frau” crossed-out and rewritten, and with score slightly different than published version. Undated but circa 1938 when Strauss gave the manuscript to his friend, conductor Hans Swarowsky. At this time in 1938, the opera was banned in Nazi Germany after only three performances following its premiere in 1935, due to its association with Zweig, who Strauss insisted be credited on the production.”

Bidding for the manuscript began at $15,000.