Intermezzo (opera)

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Opera by Richard Strauss
Strauss in 1922
LibrettistRichard Strauss
4 November 1924 (1924-11-04)
Semperoper, Dresden

Intermezzo, Op. 72, is a comic opera in two acts by Richard Strauss to his own German libretto, described as a Bürgerliche Komödie mit sinfonischen Zwischenspielen (bourgeois comedy with symphonic interludes). It premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 4 November 1924, with sets that reproduced Strauss' home in Garmisch. The first Vienna performance was in January 1927.[1]


The story depicts fictionally the personalities of Strauss himself (as "Robert Storch") and his wife Pauline (as "Christine")[2] and was based on real incidents in their lives. Pauline Strauss was not aware of the opera's subject before the first performance. After Lotte Lehmann had congratulated Pauline on this "marvelous present to you from your husband", Pauline's reply was reported as "I don't give a damn".[3][4] The most celebrated excerpts from the opera are the orchestral interludes between scenes.[citation needed]

His usual librettist up to that time, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, refused to work on the opera and suggested that Strauss himself write the libretto, which he eventually did after having been refused by other writers. This is why the libretto is not in verse but in prose and even mimics the dialect used by the servants in the play, against the more polished German of the principals.

The opera's title is intended to refer to the intermezzi that used to be staged during the intermissions of serious operas during the 18th century, sort of mini-comic-operas, easy to follow with themes usually about marital confusions and other light comedies.

Performance history[edit]

The UK premiere was at the Glyndebourne Opera on 20 September 1974 (sung in English), with subsequent productions in 1975 and 1983 (with a BBC Broadcast on 26 August 1983).[5]

The first professional staged US production was at the Santa Fe Opera in 1984, translated into English.[6]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 4 November 1924
Conductor: Fritz Busch
Christine Storch soprano Lotte Lehmann
Robert Storch, her husband, a conductor baritone Joseph Correck
Anna, their maid soprano Liesel v. Schuch
Franzl, their eight-year-old son spoken Fritz Sonntag
Baron Lummer tenor Theo Strack
The notary baritone Robert Büssel
His wife soprano Elfriede Haberkorn
Stroh, another conductor tenor Hanns Lange
A commercial counselor baritone Ludwig Ermold
A legal counsellor baritone Adolph Schoepflin
A singer bass Willy Bader
Fanny, the Storch's cook spoken Anna Bolze
Marie and Therese, maids spoken Erna Frese
Resi, a young girl soprano


Setting: Vienna and Grundlsee during a 1920s winter

The composer Storch is leaving for a conducting tour, and his wife Christine helps him pack, arguing and nagging along the way. Seeking relief from loneliness she goes tobogganing and collides with a skier, a young Baron who befriends her. They dance together at a ball and she arranges for him to lodge in the house of her notary. The friendship is soured when the Baron asks Christine for financial assistance. She opens a letter, supposedly for her husband, from a lady arranging an assignation. She immediately telegrams Storch demanding they part for ever. In tears, she seeks solace in her son's bedroom but he defends his father.

Storch is playing skat with friends in Vienna when the telegram arrives, and is bewildered by the accusations. Stroh, a conductor friend, admits that he knows the lady and surmises that his and Storch's surnames must have been confused. Christine visits the notary to demand a divorce, but he is unwilling to pursue the matter. She sends the Baron to Vienna to gather evidence of infidelity. Packing to leave, she receives a telegram from her husband saying that Stroh will explain the misunderstanding. Even after Stroh's visit she is reluctant to accept the truth. Storch returns home, and an argument ensues. The Baron arrives with evidence that Stroh rather than Storch had indeed known the lady and Christine dismisses him, assured that her husband is blameless. Storch forgives her anger and teases her about her dalliance with the Baron. Husband and wife declare a renewed love.


Strauss scored Intermezzo for the following orchestra:

  • Woodwinds: 2 flutes (flute 2 doubles piccolo), 2 oboes (oboe 2 doubles English Horn), 2 clarinets in B-flat (clarinet 2 doubles bass clarinet in A), 2 bassoons (2nd bassoon must play low A in act 2)
  • Brass: 3 horns (in F, E, D, E-flat, and A), 2 trumpets (in C), 2 trombones
  • Percussion: timpani, suspended cymbals, crash cymbals, snare drum, triangle, bass drum, pair of [sleigh] bells
  • Keyboards: piano, harmonium
  • Strings: harp, violins I (11), violins II (9), violas (5), violoncelli (5), contrabasses (3)


Year Cast:
Christine Storch,
Robert Storch,
Baron Lummer
opera house and orchestra
1954 Hilde Zadek,
Alfred Poell,
Anny Felbermayer,
Rudolf Christ
Rudolf Moralt
Vienna State Opera Orchestra, 30 March at the Theater an der Wien
Omega Opera Archive 538
1963 Hanny Steffek,
Hermann Prey,
Gertrud Freedman,
Ferry Gruber
Joseph Keilberth,
Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus
VHS Video Cassette: Lyric Distribution (Legato)
Cat: 1818;
DVD: Legato Classics[8]
1980 Lucia Popp,
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,
Gabriele Fuchs,
Adolf Dallapozza
Wolfgang Sawallisch,
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
CD: EMI Classics
Cat: 7 49337-2
1983 Felicity Lott,
John Pringle,
Elizabeth Gale,
Ian Caley
Gustav Kuhn,
London Philharmonic Orchestra
VHS / DVD?: Kultur]
Cat: CVI 2024
2014 Simone Schneider,
Markus Eiche [de],
Martina Welschenbach,
Martin Homrich,
Brigitte Fassbaender (speaking roles)
Ulf Schirmer,
Münchner Rundfunkorchester
CD: Classic Produktion Osnabrück,
Cat: 7779012[9]


  1. ^ "Intermezzo". Time, 27 January 1927
  2. ^ Griffel, Margaret Ross, Review of Del Mar 1969, Notes (2nd ser.), 27(4), pp. 726–726 (June 1971) doi:10.2307/895878 JSTOR 895878
  3. ^ Del Mar, Norman (1969). Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary on His Life and Work (Vol. 2). Chilton Book Company.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Michael (2006). Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma. Cambridge University Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-521-02774-8.
  5. ^ Glyndebourne archive retrieved 12 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Strauss' Intermezzo at Santa Fe Opera" by Bernard Holland, The New York Times, 6 August 1984
  7. ^ Recordings of Intermezzo on
  8. ^ Beth Hart, Reviews of video releases of Intermezzo. The Opera Quarterly, 15(3), pp. 608-612 (1999)
  9. ^ Strauss: Intermezzo, Audio CD

External links[edit]