More than eight decades separate us from the première of Elektra in 1909, yet since then we have learned little more about how the opera evolved. Elektra not only fully established Strauss as the most prominent German opera composer of his time, but also marked the beginning of the most important artistic collaboration of his life. It is, therefore, curious that documentation pertaining to important events surrounding Elektra's genesis have remained so obscure. The aim of this chapter, thus, is to establish a reliable chronology of the opera's evolution, an account based upon published letters by Strauss and Hofmannsthal, unpublished letters from Strauss to his family and friends, the composer's diaries, and other hitherto unexamined sources.
In an essay of 1942 entitled 'Reminiscences of the First Performance of My Operas', Strauss states that he decided to set Elektra to music after he saw the play; he does not say when he witnessed that performance.
When I first saw Hofmannsthal's inspired play in the Deutsches Theater with Gertrude Eysoldt, I immediately recognised, of course, what a magnificent operatic libretto it might be (after the alteration I made in the Orestes scene it has actually become one) and, just as previously with Salome, I appreciated the tremendous increase in musical tension to the very end.1
Thus, a fundamental task in determining the chronology of the opera is to establish when Strauss saw the play.
We know that Strauss and Hofmannsthal met before the composer had seen the play. They first met on 23 March 1899____________________