FIRST EDITION OF THE LIBRETTO FOR DER ROSENKAVALIER
STRAUSS, Richard. Der Rosenkavalier. Komödie für Musik in drei Aufzügen von Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Berlin and Paris: Adolf Fürstner, 1911. Small octavo, original printed stiff paper wrappers with silver rose pattern. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $4200.
First edition, rare variant issue of the libretto for Strauss’ most enduring masterpiece.
Hofmannsthal conceived Rosenkavalier along the lines of an 18th-century comedy of manners somewhat in the style of Molière. “On receiving the first act, Strauss pronounced Hofmannsthal’s libretto as a masterpiece, and he set it to music that was ‘like oil and melted butter” (Boyden, 415) “If [Hofmannsthal] was not, as has sometimes been claimed, the greatest of librettists, few writers of comparable distinction, and with an already firmly established literary reputation, have applied themselves so conscientiously and over so long a period to the composition of operatic librettos. During the 23 years of his collaboration with Richard Strauss, Hofmannsthal not only restored the words in opera to their former position of creative equality with music, but wrote librettos which are among the small number that can be read with pleasure as literature… Yet his librettos also form a consistent whole in their continuously developing exploration of love… in its humane fusion of mature friendship, comparison and mutual understanding; the supple beauty of the poetry, the fluid precision of the conversational interchanges and the symbolic allusiveness that gives to each work a dimension beyond its stage reality are absorbed into a vivid delineation of character and personality” (New Grove 8:635-36). “Der Rosenkavalier remains the most successful and popular of Strauss’s operas. Its superior libretto, its 18th-century Vienna setting, its mingling of romance, farce, wit, sentimentality and tenderness, its human characterizations, its feast of melody dominated by waltz rhythms”—all contribute to its harmony of text, music, and action (New Grove 18:229). This copy is the rare uncorrected variant issue, with many printing errors, corrected in (presumably) later issues. Fuld, Librettos, 281.
A bit of faint spotting to back cover. A near-fine copy, remarkable in this condition for such a fragile piece.