- David Murray
Opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to his own libretto; Weimar, Grossherzogliches Hoftheater, 10 May 1894.
The successful première of this first Strauss opera proved to be a false dawn. He had greatly hoped for a première not in provincial Weimar, where he was serving as Kapellmeister to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, but in his native city of Munich. When at last Guntram was performed there – just once, on 16 November 1895 – its reception was so discouraging as to curdle his operatic ambitions for several years. His dramaturgy was flat and clumsy: in effect, as the Munich critic Oskar Merz wrote, Guntram amounted to ‘a psychological event in one act, with two preceding acts’. It would be almost a quarter-century before Strauss dared again to write his own libretto (for Intermezzo). Yet Merz praised the ‘undoubted nobility and purity’ of his artistic intentions, and was no less impressed than dismayed by his profligate orchestral genius. Furthermore, in the soprano role of Freihild his wife Pauline made as great an impression as in Weimar, where on the day of the première he had announced their engagement....