The Associated Press reports that a German court last week began assessing a lawsuit brought by five von Hofmannsthal heirs claiming the right to approximately a quarter of the royalties from nine Strauss works, including Der Rosenkavalier and Elektra, for which Hofmannsthal wrote the librettos.
The payments would amount to about U$1 million annually, according to the AP. The other works involved in the case are the operas Die ägyptische Helena, Ariadne auf Naxos, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Arabella and Die Liebe der Danaë, as well as the ballet The Legend of Joseph and the reworking of Beethoven's instrumental music to Kotzebue's play The Ruins of Athens
The von Hofmannsthal heirs are reportedly basing their case on a series of contracts in which the writer gave Strauss the full rights to his librettos in exchange for a portion of the royalties. However, writes the AP, none of the contracts stipulate clearly how long it was intended that von Hofmannsthal (or his heirs) should receive a share of the Strauss royalties; the Strauss heirs believe the royalties should now only pertain to the operas' music.
The court wants to see two more of the original contracts before it issues a ruling on the case in 2007, according to the AP.