STRAUS, OSCAR (1870–1954), composer. Born and educated in Vienna, Straus also studied in Berlin with Max Bruch. In 1901, after conducting various theater orchestras in Austria and Germany, he became conductor at the satirical cabaret "Ueberbrettl" in Berlin. There he began writing musical sketches and chansons, including Die Musik kommt, and quickly proceeded to full-scale operettas, joining the mainstream of the "silver age" of the operetta which had just begun to establish a vigorous school at Berlin that paralleled the Viennese productions. His first works, such as Die lustigen Nibelungen (1904), were Offenbach-like parodies of Wagnerian operas. In 1907 he composed the first of his international successes, Ein Walzertraum ("A Waltz Dream"), and in 1908 the second one, Der tapfere Soldat, based on G.B. Shaw's Arms and the Man; it was known in English as the The Chocolate Soldier (New York premiere in 1909). Further successes followed almost yearly. In 1927 Straus settled in Vienna. After his works were banned by the Nazi regime he lived in Switzerland and France, and stayed in the United States from 1940 to 1948, when he returned to Europe. His last work, Božena (premiere Munich, 1952), is a work in the style of a folk opera based on Slavic material; it emphasizes the use of ensembles and choral scenes. He also wrote some orchestral, chamber, and piano works, as well as music for films, of which the music to Max Ophuls' La Ronde (1950) yielded a perennial waltz favorite.
The original form of his name was Strauss, but the spelling was changed because of pressure from German nationalistic elements who resented the possibility of linking the composer's name with the presumably Aryan Viennese Strauss family of composers. Ironically, the Viennese Strauss family were also discovered to have been of Jewish descent – a fact which the Nazi authorities hushed up by a manipulation of the documentary evidence after their takeover of Austria. Genealogical research has not, however, established any direct relationship between Oscar Straus and the Viennese Strausses.
Riemann-Gurlitt; mgg, incl. bibl.; Grove, Dict; Baker, Biog Dict; B. Grun, Prince of Vienna; the Life, the Times and the Melodies of Oscar Straus (1955); H. Jaeger-Sunstenau, Johann Strauss; der Walzerkoenig und seine Dynastie. Familiengeschichte, Urkunden (1965), 84–87, 91.