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Title:A hero's work of peace: Richard Strauss's Friedenstag
Author(s):Prendergast, Ryan Michael
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Strauss, Richard
Third Reich
Abstract:Richard Strauss’s one-act opera FRIEDENSTAG (DAY OF PEACE) has received staunch criticism regarding its overt militaristic content and compositional merits. The opera is one of several works that Strauss composed between 1933 and 1945, when the National Socialists were in power in Germany. Owing to Strauss’s formal involvement with the Third Reich, his artistic and political activities during this period have invited much scrutiny. The context of the opera’s premiere in 1938, just as Germany’s aggressive stance in Europe intensified, has encouraged a range of assessments regarding its preoccupation with war and peace. The opera’s defenders read its dramatic and musical components via lenses of pacifism and resistance to Nazi ideology. Others simply dismiss the opera as platitudinous. Eschewing a strict political stance as an interpretive guide, this thesis instead explores the means by which Strauss pursued more ambiguous and multidimensional levels of meaning in the opera. Specifically, I highlight the ways he infused the dramaturgical and musical landscapes of FRIEDENSTAG with burlesque elements. These malleable instances of irony open the opera up to a variety of fresh and fascinating interpretations, illustrating how FRIEDENSTAG remains a lynchpin for judiciously appraising Strauss’s artistic and political legacy. In this thesis, attention is paid to the troubled period of the opera’s genesis, from Strauss’s initial collaboration with author Stefan Zweig to its eventual completion with Joseph Gregor in 1936. Close study of the score reveals how Strauss, despite his struggles with the libretto, carefully integrated music and politics into a complex artwork that eludes the epithets of “Nazi” and “pacifist” in favor of a more nuanced understanding. A century and a half after Strauss’s birth, FRIEDENSTAG continues to shed light on the precarious world that he and other German artists navigated on the eve of World War II
Issue Date:2015-04-28
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Ryan Michael Prendergast
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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