Hindemith's intensive confrontation with expressionism was part of a phenomenon that went down in theatrical history as «Frankfurt Expressionism.» In this, Hindemith especially profited from the sculptor and poet Benno Elkan and the theatre critic Bernhard Diebold.
In 1922 in Frankfurt, he even founded the idealistic «Community of Music» operating according to the expressionist conception of art: «...a purely musical affair having nothing to do with money. The listeners don't pay anything, the players don' t earn anything, the very low costs are borne together. Here, finally, is music for the sake of music! No personal ambition is taken into consideration, no critics come.»
Hindemith's triptych of one-act operas Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen, Op. 12 (based on Oskar Kokoschka), Das Nusch-Nuschi, Op. 20 (based on Franz Blei) and Sancta Susanna, Op. 21 (based on August Stramm) are considered the epitome of his Expressionism. The subject of sexuality is what connects the works. In Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen, which takes place in an imaginary antiquity, it is an archetypical battles of the sexes; in Das Nusch-Nuschi, set in the Far East, sensual pleasures; Sancta Susanna from the Christian western world is concerned with dark animal instincts.
The representation of sexuality and its drastic punishment through branding, castration and being walled-in provoked an incredible operatic scandal that rapidly made Hindemith known amongst wide sections of the population. In the music to Das Nusch-Nuschi, Hindemith also parodied nearly all musical styles of the turn of the century, especially Reger and Mahler; he even made direct quotations from works of Wagner and Strauss. One could read the following in a contemporary review: «The performance [...] signifies a desecration of our art institutions. The content is of an indescribable meanness. Everything that is sacred to us is dragged into the slime here by a non-German spirit.» Even in 1977, a performance of Sancta Susanna in Rome resulted in a criminal complaint against the mayor and the opera director.