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Strauss' heirs have to share

The composer of `Elektra' clearly meant to split profits with his librettist, a court rules.

June 15, 2007|From the Associated Press

MUNICH, GERMANY — A court has ordered descendants of composer Richard Strauss to share royalties with the heirs of librettist Hugo von Hoffmansthal for nine collaborations, including the popular operas "Der Rosenkavalier" and "Elektra."

In a decision made public Thursday, the Munich state court found that letters and agreements between the men made it clear they intended to share the income.

While restoring royalty payments for the Hoffmansthal side, the judges turned back requests for royalties from record sales and performances that did not include text.

The court cited Hoffmansthal's words: "A work is a whole and also the work of two people can be a whole.... The music should not be torn from the text, nor the word from the lively image."

Payments to the heirs of Hoffmansthal, who died in 1929, stopped in 1999 after the expiration of a 70-year protection period. The Strauss rights are still under protection because he died later, in 1949.

The Strauss heirs must disclose earnings, after which a determination would be made about how much was owed the Hoffmansthals. The decision can be appealed.

In their original petition, the Hoffmansthals sought at least 25% and specified the amount in question as $997,000 for the years 2001 and 2002 alone.

One of the most important composers of the last century, Strauss was considered ahead of his time early in his life and won fame with compositions such as "Thus Spake Zarathustra," but his association with the Nazis clouded his later years.

"Der Rosenkavalier" and "Elektra" are still frequently performed by the world's great opera companies.

The other works involved in the case are the operas "Die Agyptische Helena," "Ariadne auf Naxos," "Die Frau ohne Schatten," "Arabella," "Die Liebe der Danae," and Strauss and Hoffmansthal's reworking of Beethoven's "The Ruins of Athens," as well as a ballet, "The Legend of Joseph."

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