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As mentioned, Herbert von Karajan was an Austrian conductor who joined the Nazi Party.

In the early 1900’s, Georg von Schonerer and Karl Lueger were two politicians who were willing to manipulate anti-Semitism for their own gain.

Of the two, Schonerer was the true believer. He was not only anti-Semitic, he was also anti-Slavic and anti-Catholic. His extreme views ended up alienating him from the more subtle politicians who shared some of his views.

Schonerer’s views and policies are said to have been influential upon Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Karl Lueger was the founder of the Christian Social Party and learned early on that he could garner attention by addressing, “The Jewish Question.”

Lueger was not a rabid anti-Semite but he did use the rhetoric to gain votes. Ultimately Lueger became the mayor of Vienna.

Why talk about the politics of early 20th Century Vienna? I bring it up to add balance to the general perception of Vienna. It was a city full of strife and conflict. . The topic I want to explore is the relationship between a Viennese playwright and a German composer.

The writer was Hugo von Hofmannsthal and the composer was Richard Strauss.

Both men were tremendous artists who wrote in a time of political, social, and economic unrest.

One of their collaborations, Der Rosenkavalier, opens at the Civic Theater on Sunday April, 3rd.

Der Rosenkavalier is set in the 18th century Vienna of Mozart and Maria Therese. It harkens back to what could be called a simpler time for Vienna.

Next post, we’ll get into Der Rosenkavalier, and von Hofmannsthal.

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JosephVann March 23, 2011 @ 4:16 p.m.

Actually, no, ROSENKAVALIER is not set in anything approaching a realistically-conceived Vienna, although it was R & H's conceit, one might say, to say that it is set there. The choice of the time period is the clue that leads you to the mythical plane on which the action of the piece is played out -- mythical being the key word. The Vienna in which THE ROSE BEARER takes place existed only in the creators' imaginations. This is not to say that it is not a world which both Strauss and vonH wished might have really existed. But vonH, in particular, was after bigger game than could have been encompassed in any artistic creation that was inextricably tied by time and actual circumstance to a real place. This is one dimension of the piece that has been (willfully, I assert) lost, and very quickly so in the 100 years since its premiere...a dimension that is indeed present in the work of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, in the music of Zemlinsky and Korngold, framed by the work of Freud, and sonically palpable in Mahler...and most of all in the single great work of Robert Musil. But that world and its agonies are not present in ROSENKAVALIER, and indeed not even prefigured. I strongly recommend both S. Zweig's volume of memoirs, and a long, leisurely pursuit of the correspondence between Hofmannstahl and Strauss.


Garrett Harris March 23, 2011 @ 6:58 p.m.


I should say the costumes and set design are from the Vienna of the 18th Century.

It is interesting that, to my knowledge, there have been no updated productions of Der Rosenkavalier--I'm getting that from the director of the current SDO production and haven't verified it.


nan shartel March 24, 2011 @ 2:20 p.m.

rarefied intelligencia here Opera wise

i'll keep my lip zipped

but concerning the supposed "Jewish Problem"

Most German Jews were well assimilated. (Germany was the birthplace of the Reform Movement in Judaism). They were loyal, law-abiding Germans, and a disproportionately high number of Jews fell on the frontline in World War 1.

Except in Bavaria, where some Jews had been prominent in the revolutions of 1918-1919, the idea that ordinary Germans were seething with hatred against the Jews is inaccurate. The rowdy beerhalls of Bavaria were not typical of Germany, and antisemitism was not the big vote-winner that Hitler thought. He was often urged by close adverisers to tone it down as they thought it was actually losing the Nazis votes.

Many German Jews worked in the professions, for example as teachers and doctors. On the whole, those people who came into regular contact with Jews and actually knew them, were not anti-Jewish.

Antisemitism tended to be strongest among hardline nationalists and people who fell for antisemitic conspiracy theories and Hitler Nazi propaganda

also during the PreDepression years in Germany out of 161 banks in Berlin 150 are Jewish owned

even tho their money armed Germany they weren't viewed favorably by many...their tendency toward Jewish nepotism was also criticized when employment was scare for Germany's non Jewish population


JosephVann March 24, 2011 @ 4:04 p.m.

Yes, you might say - in a very narrow sense - that the costumes and the sets are placed in the 18th century, but even that would not quite be the case.....and be careful, very careful, in dealing with anything that the wily Mansouri may have to say....about anything. There is a very large number of folks in this country who have been very glad to hear that this production will mark Mansouri's retirement from the operatic stage (although there is now a disheartening rumor making the rounds that he has gone back on his earlier assertion that this is the last time his particular kind of pseudo-stage direction will be inflicted on any audience anywhere.) In any case, the better solution here is to seek out some of the writings of Alfred Roller and see what he had to say about his original scenic designs. What you will find is that the original designs (on which the SDO mounting is based) were in most important ways a reflection of the time in which they were conceived and executed rather than any thorough-going attempt to bring any specific part of the 18th century back to life. This is pretty much the case with stage design in any period, no matter how much lip service designers may give to period authenticity. And there would be no point in "updating" ROSENKAVALIER, something that would alter the work so much that you would,in fact, be doing some other opera altogether. Oh, the words and the music might be the same, but the particular kind of resonance that Strauss and to a greater degree Hofmannstahl were trying to set up -- a multi-dimensional work of art that would function a bit like a hall of mirrors -- would cease to "sound" as it were. The point of the mythical world the text sets up is to create a kind of gigantic artistic elastic, at each end of which are worlds that speak to each other in profoundly different ways. This difference sets up what you might call a series of overtones that vibrate above and alongside the work. One can't "hear" them so much as "feel" what they have to say, things that are not explicit in the words and music, but exist only in the more or less invisible world that runs parallel to them in the experience of the listener/viewer.


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