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Feuersnot (The Need for Fire or Fire Famine), Op. 50, is a Singgedicht (sung poem) or opera in one act by Richard Strauss. The German libretto was written by Ernst von Wolzogen, based on J. Ketel's report "Das erloschene Feuer zu Audenaerde" in the Oudenaarde Gazette, Leipzig, 1843. It was Strauss' second opera.

Thematically, the opera has been interpreted as a parody of Richard Wagner's idea of "redemption through love", with the character of Kunrad representing Strauss himself.[1]

Performance history[edit]

The premiere was at the Dresden Hofoper on 21 November 1901. Gustav Mahler directed the Vienna premiere at the Hofoper on 29 January 1902, in the presence of the composer, but it was not a commercial success, in spite of Mahler's careful musical preparation. At the time of the premiere, the sexual and erotic subtexts and psychology were disturbing to audiences, as well as the perceived "advanced" nature of the music itself to more conservative-minded musicians.[2] The Berlin premiere was on 28 October 1902.[3]

Since Strauss's time, the opera has rarely been staged or performed. In London it was presented on 9 July 1910,[4] while the US premiere was not given until 1 December 1927 by the Philadelphia Civic Opera Company at Philadelphia's Metropolitan Opera House with George Rasely as Gundelfingen and Alexander Smallens conducting.[5] The Zurich premiere was not until 1953.[6] The New York City premiere was in 1985, at the Manhattan School of Music.[7]

It was given by the Santa Fe Opera during its summer 1988 Festival season. In the UK, Chelsea Opera Group presented a concert performance in 2000.[8]


Premiere, 21 November 1901
(Ernst von Schuch)
Schweiker von Gundelfingen, the bailiff low tenor Franz Petter
Ortolf Sentlinger, the mayor low bass Franz Nebuschka
Diemut, his daughter high soprano Annie Krull
Elsbeth, her friend mezzo-soprano Auguste Lautenbacher
Wigelis, her friend low contralto Irene von Chavanne
Margret, her friend high soprano Minnie Nast
Kunrad, the alchemist high baritone Karl Scheidemantel
Jörg Pöschel, the Leitgeb low bass Ernst Wachter
Hämmerlein, the haberdasher baritone Josef Höpfl
Kofel, the blacksmith bass Friedrich Plaschke
Kunz Gilgenstock, the baker and brewer bass Hans Geißler
Ortlieb Tulbeck, the cooper high tenor Anton Erl
Ursula, his wife contralto Franziska Schäfer
Ruger Asbeck, the potter tenor Theodor Kruis
Walpurg, his wife high soprano Gisela Staudigl
Citizens, women, children, retainers


Place: Medieval Munich
Time: Midsummer Night

During the Midsummer festival, lovers swear fidelity by leaping through the flames of a bonfire (known traditionally as Johannisfeuer). A sorcerer, Kunrad, has appeared in the city, and his presence disturbs the people. Kunrad is attracted to Diemut, daughter to the mayor. He kisses her in public. She rebuffs him by promising to bring him up to her room in a basket, but then leaves him hanging halfway up. In retaliation, he quenches all the festival bonfires and denounces the people as philistines. The only way to restore the fires is via "the body of a virgin in heat", which shocks the populace. They persuade Diemut to yield to Kunrad. She does so, and after she has her first-ever sexual experience (depicted in the orchestra), with a light glowing in her room, the fires are restored.


Year Cast
Opera House and Orchestra
1958 Maud Cunitz,
Marcel Cordes
Rudolf Kempe
Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus
(Live Recording)
Orfeo D'Or
Cat: 423962 [10]
1984 Bernd Weikl,
Julia Varady
Heinz Fricke
Munich Radio Orchestra with Tölzer Boys Choir and Bavarian Radio Chorus
Audio CD: Arts Music


  1. ^ Morten Kristiansen, "Richard Strauss, Die Moderne, and the Concept of Stilkunst." The Musical Quarterly, 86, 689-749 (2002).
  2. ^ Julie Dorn Morrison, "Mahler, Strauss, and Feuersnot: Emblems of Modernity at the Vienna Court Opera". The Opera Quarterly, 15, 377-389 (1999).
  3. ^ Richard Strauss's 'Feuersnot' in Berlin (author initials "A.K."). The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 43(718), pp. 808-809 (Dec. 1, 1902).
  4. ^ Holden, p. 888
  5. ^ STRAUSS OPERA HAS AMERICAN PREMIERE; " Feuersnoth," in One Act, Is Sung by the Philadelphia Civic Company. LAID IN TWELFTH CENTURY " Die Maeinkonigen," a Pretty Pastoral Work by Gluck, Also Given Before Brilliant Audience, Olin Downes, The New York Times, December 1, 1927
  6. ^ Willi Schuh, "Richard Strauss and Zürich". Tempo (New Ser.), 29, pp. 10-13 (Autumn, 1953).
  7. ^ Donal Henehan, "Feursnot, Strauss One-Act". New York Times, 13 December 1985.
  8. ^ Tim Ashley, "Feuersnot" (review). The Guardian, 30 November 2000.
  9. ^ Recordings of Feuerenot listed on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
  10. ^ George Jellinek,9 "Feuersnot (1901)" The Opera Quarterly, 15, 464-465, 1999 (Recording review)