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Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Polls Are Closed!

The next Superconductor Audio Guide series will focus on Richard Strauss.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Richard Strauss stuffed the ballot box and will be the subject of the next Superconductor Audio Guide retrospective.
Photoshop and award design by Paul J. Pelkonen.

Superconductor has completed its first-ever reader's poll and the winner is....Richard Strauss!

The German composer is your choice to be the focus of the next series of Superconductor Audio Guides, the regular series that tracks the life of a great composer through a chronological output of operas and other pieces, and offers analysis of some of their major compositions. Last year the operas of Wagner and Mozart have been written up in this fashion, and this year it's Strauss' turn.

Richard Strauss represents the last bastion of German Romanticism. A masterful composer and conductor, he started as a creator of vivid, sometimes shocking tone poems that employed giant orchestras to create incredible effects. Today he is best remembered for the introduction to his tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra, used to memorable effect by Stanley Kubrick in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Later in his career, Strauss moved to opera, creating a string of works that ranged from the shocking and violent to drawing-room comedies. He wrote fifteen operas in total. About half of them are in the standard repertory, with rare works popping up when an ambitious conductor and a cast of good German singers are able to revive one. Seven Strauss operas will be looked at in this coming series, with another three added if we're all having a reasonably good time. The plan is as follows:

Salome: Strauss' third opera and first genuine success, the story of the Princess of Judea and the death of John the Baptist

Elektra: Greek tragedy, German orchestration. Blood everywhere.

Der Rosenkavalier: A turn toward Mozartean comedy and Strauss' biggest stage success.

Ariadne auf Naxos: The ultimate "desert island" opera mixes Greek drama and Italian commedia dell'arte

Die Frau ohne Schatten: A "quest" opera: think Die Zauberflöte on a Wagnerian scale.

Arabella: Another Viennese comedy, bittersweet and lovely.

Capriccio: Strauss' last opera is a meditation on the nature of opera itself.

If you voted for Giuseppe Verdi or Giacomo Puccini, they will both be covered in future blog installments. As of this writing, the plan is for seven (or ten) Strauss operas, followed by the early operas of Verdi (Nabucco through La Traviata) the major works of Puccini Manon Lescaut to Turandot) and finally, the late operas of Verdi (Simon Boccanegra to Falstaff. Yes there are gaps in that list.) That's the plan as of this writing but things could of course change. 

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.