December 19, 1921: Composer Richard Strauss backs out of Armory performance

On this day in Duluth in 1921, composer Richard Strauss backed out of a scheduled appearance at the Duluth Armory along with Elisabeth Schuman, the Royal Opera of Vienna’s star soprano. The Duluth show was part of a 33-city U.S. tour, and the only Strauss performance scheduled for Minnesota. Strauss considered Schuman his “find” and had composed songs specifically for her to sing. The city planned to roll out the red carpet for the man the Duluth News Tribune called “the greatest living musical genius.” Mayor Sam Snively would meet him when his train arrived, and the two would be “escorted to the city hall accompanied by a committee of prominent musicians of the city.” Later, the Kitchi Gammi Club would hold a reception for the composer, with Duluth’s Matinee Musicale performance group providing the entertainment. Advanced sales reached $3,000 (a little more than $36,000 today) and a capacity audience had been “assured” when the News Tribune reported that the concert had been cancelled. Strauss had dramatically reduced the tour, stating that he would not travel west of Chicago. The cancellation was a big disappointment for Llewellyn Totman, the Duluth promoter who had scheduled him. Totman was just 18 at the time and already a seasoned drama critic and literary editor for the Duluth News Tribune. Two years later, Totman graduated Duluth Central and was off to Los Angeles, where he became a Hollywood screenwriter; Totman wrote or co-wrote about fifty films. You can read more about him here.

Richard Strauss. (Image: Public Domain)