Richard Strauss's Friedenstag: a political statement of peace in Nazi Germany




Moss, Patricia Josette

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After the conclusion of World War II, Richard Strauss’s activities and compositions came under intense scrutiny as scholars tried to understand his position with respect to the National Socialist regime. Their conclusions varied, some describing Strauss as a Nazi sympathizer, some as a victim of Nazism, with others concluding that Strauss was neither a sympathizer nor a victim, merely politically naïve. Among the latter was Strauss’s friend and biographer, Willi Schuh, who ardently defended the composer’s activities during the Nazi period. While Schuh asserted that Strauss’s music had no direct political ties to the “Third Reich”, Strauss’s 1938 opera, Friedenstag, demonstrates that he was, in fact, politically aware and capable of composing a work replete with conscious political overtones. The correspondence between Strauss and his Jewish librettist, Stefan Zweig, shows that Strauss deliberately chose to compose Friedenstag in the face of his disillusionment with the Nazi government. Although initially hailed as the first Nazi opera, elements of Friedenstag’s political message resist appropriation by Hitler’s regime. While addressing the pro-Nazi implications through a close study of the libretto and score, this thesis will argue that Friedenstag was composed as a tribute to peace and a response to the increasingly hostile political climate.



Richard Strauss, Friedenstag, Nazi, National Socialist, Third Reich, operas