Richard Strauss, Romain Rolland and Salomé

This is an abstract of Rosemary Yeoland’s article in the Richard Strauss Jahrbuch 2013 pp.61-77, by kind permission of the author.

When Richard Strauss decided to write his own French version of the opera Salomé, where he wished to preserve Oscar Wilde’s original text “word for word”, he looked to his French friend, author and musicologist, Romain Rolland, to assist him with adapting the musical phrases to the French text. This paper traces the genesis of Strauss’s French libretto and examines the interaction between Rolland and Strauss over appropriate French wording, phrase use and the correct stress emphasis necessary for French words. Strauss, habituated to the marked strong and weak accents of the German language was challenged by the softer nuanced French style that Rolland indicated was needed for a style similar to that of Debussy’s opera. Strauss made a number of changes to the vocal score and some examples are included to illustrate how he deviated from the German score to accommodate the pronunciation of French words. The paper then briefly traces the uneven trajectory of Strauss’s French version of Salomé from its first performance at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, 25 March 1907 to the recently renewed status it is enjoying today.

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