Oscar Straus

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated


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.

[Bathja Bayer]

views updated

Straus, Oscar (b Vienna, 1870; d Bad Ischl, 1954). Austrian-born composer (Fr. cit. 1939). Cond. th. orchs. in Ger. 1893–9, his first opera being perf. in Bratislava 1894. Pianist 1900 for Wolzogen's Überbrettl in Berlin, for which he comp. many songs. Returned to Vienna 1904, composing operettas yearly and achieving major success in 1907 with Ein Walzertraum. In 1908 wrote Der tapfere Soldat, based on Shaw's Arms and the Man (1894). This was f.p. Vienna 1908, and in NY 1909 and London 1910 as The Chocolate Soldier. Many other operettas followed, but none had much success until Der letzte Walzer (The Last Waltz), Vienna 1920, comp. for Fritzi Massary, who sang in several of his works. Left Europe 1937, living in Paris until 1940 and Hollywood until settling in Bad Ischl 1948. His last success was with theme-tune for the film La Ronde, 1950. Also comp. 2 ballets, chamber mus., many film scores, and nearly 500 songs. Name spelt Strauss on birth certificate, but he deleted one of final ‘s’ to differentiate himself from other composers with the name.

views updated

Oscar Straus (ôs´kär shtrous), 1870–1954, Austrian composer; studied in Vienna and with Max Bruch in Berlin. After a brief career as conductor he turned entirely to composition. His operas and instrumental works are eclipsed by his successful operettas, particularly A Waltz Dream (1907) and The Chocolate Soldier (1908; based on G. B. Shaw's Arms and the Man). During the early 1930s Straus wrote scores for films in Hollywood. In 1939 he became a French citizen, and in 1940 he moved to the United States.