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The Ladies’ Man of Opera

BBC Radio 4

21st April 2011

“Composer Richard Strauss lived a long life crowded with splendid women. But to the surprise of his friends he belonged to only one - his formidable wife, soprano Pauline de Ahna. For Strauss’s ‘other women’ belonged to the illustrious gallery of heroines he would bring to the operatic stage, beginning with Freihild in Guntram.  Many of his heroines were already immortal in name, Salome, Elektra, Ariadne, Daphne, Helen of Troy. Even his best male roles (Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, the composer in Ariadne auf Naxos) were written for women. Indeed all of Strauss’ operas would celebrate the soprano voice, because he composed with his wife’s voice in his ear.

“In 2009 Michael Pennington played Richard Strauss in the West End play, Collaboration. Whilst acting out the Composer’s life on the stage he became fascinated with Strauss’ life and in particular his marriage. In The Ladies Man of Opera Michael Pennington goes on a journey through the music and letters of Strauss to discover the relationship that formed the bedrock of his musical achievements. Examining the works of the composer he reveals the central role that Pauline played in his music and in doing so explores their enduring and eventful marriage.”


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