When Richard Strauss began to devote himself to opera at the turn of the century, he was already a famous man. He had composed eight of his brilliant tone poems within only twelve years. His dramatic talent and ability as an orchestrator had developed to their full potential. Whereas in the symphonic poems he grappled with his thoughts and feelings about the world’s adversities (Ein Heldenleben, op. 40) or transformed the fiery passion of unrestrained love into music (Don Juan, op. 20), from then on he was fascinated by the complexity of the female character. After several love affairs and as a popular socialite of his day, he already had a good deal of experience. Richard Strauss was interested in a particular type, however – the fin-de-siècle woman: sensitive, highly strung, full of yearning and dreams, ready for the dawn of a new era, with a sense of emancipation but still afraid of the responsibility associated with it. She baffled him, and he wanted to comprehend her in her entirety. The psychological and creative interplay between men and women resulting from the breakdown of social conventions at the turn of the century occupied Strauss well into his late work.