Die Frau ohne Schatten
Flora Willson, with William Mival, presents a performance of Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten from the Vienna State Opera, exactly 100 years since its premiere on the same stage.
On the 10th October 1919 Richard Strauss's grand opera Die Frau ohne Schatten received its premiere at the Vienna State Opera, and 100 years later a top line-up of soloists including Camilla Nylund, Stephen Gould and Nina Stemme give a performance on the same stage under Christian Thielemann. The 'woman without a shadow' of the title is the half-mortal Empress. If she doesn't acquire a shadow within three days, she will be returned to the spirit world, and her Emperor turned to stone. Will she maintain her integrity, or steal a mortal woman's shadow instead? Modeled on Mozart's Magic Flute, the moral fairy-tale is musically very influenced by Wagner, and is on a grand scale with a huge orchestra including an organ, wind machines and a glass harmonica.
Flora Willson presents, and is joined by William Mival to discuss the history and importance of Strauss's score.
Strauss Die Frau ohne Schatten
The Emperor.....Stephen Gould (tenor),
The Empress.....Camilla Nylund (soprano)
The Nurse.....Evelyn Herlitzius (mezzo-soprano)
The Messenger of Keikobad.....Sebastian Holecek (baritone)
The Guardian of the Threshold / Voice of a Falcon.....Maria Nazarova (soprano)
Apparition of a Youth.....Benjamin Bruns (tenor)
Voice from Above.....Monika Bohinec (contralto)
The Dyer....Wolfgang Koch (bass-baritone)
The Dyer's Wife.....Nina Stemme (soprano)
The One-eyed Man, Barak's brother.....Samuel Hasselhorn (bass)
The One-armed Man, Barak's brother.....Ryan Speedo Green (bass)
The Hunchback, Barak's brother.....Thomas Ebenstein (tenor)
First Servant of the Empress / First Voice of the Unborn / First Soloist.....Ileana Tonca (soprano)
Second Servant of the Empress / Second Voice of the Unborn / Second Soloist.....Mariam Battistelli (soprano)
Third Servant of the Empress / Fourth Voice of the Unborn / Fourth Soloist.....Szilvia Vörös (mezzo-soprano)
Third Voice of the Unborn / Third Soloist.....Virginie Verrez (mezzo-soprano)
Fifth Voice of the Unborn / Fifth Soloist.....Bongiwe Nakani (mezzo-soprano)
Sixth Soloist.....Zoryana Kushpler,(mezzo-soprano)
Vienna State Opera Chorus
Stage Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera
Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Christian Thielemann (conductor)
While out hunting, the Emperor shoots a gazelle. She is transformed into a young woman; he falls in love with her and marries her. She is the daughter
of the Spirit King Keikobad. However, she must cast a shadow within twelve months or the Emperor will turn to stone and the Empress will have to return to her father. Finally, there are just three days left.
The Emperor is unaware of the impending danger and leaves to go hunting again. Accompanied by the Nurse, the Empress secretly sets off for the human world in order to acquire a shadow. They stop at the home of the Dyer, Barak, and his Wife. The couple live in poverty with Barak’s brothers; they have no children. The Dyer‘s Wife, dissatisfied with her life and her husband, allows herself to be seduced by the promise of riches and is willing to surrender her shadow to the Empress. But if she does this, the Dyer’s Wife will never become a mother. Initially she desires a handsome young man, conjured up by the Nurse, but her conscience prevents her from actually betraying Barak, who loves her more than anything else.
Troubled, she confesses to him what has happened. For Barak, whose sole goal in life is attaining the happiness of a large, close-knit family, his world collapses. He feels a desire to commit murder. At that moment, their world is swallowed up, and the two find themselves separated, in a stone vault. The couple are overcome by remorse, they once again confess their love for each other. For his part, the Emperor believes that the Empress has been unfaithful to him and wishes her dead. However, even in his wrath he cannot kill his wife. The Empress realizes that she can only attain happiness through the misfortune of others – of Barak and his Wife. She decides against her own well-being and does not drink the magic water that will secure her the shadow of the Dyer’s Wife and save the Emperor from being turned to stone.
She has passed the trial to become human, as she has now shown empathy and compassion for others and placed her own personal happiness after that of others. In becoming human she has acquired a shadow – and the Emperor, whom she loves, is saved, as are the Dyer and his Wife. The triumphant closing exultation is softly echoed by the voices of the (as yet)
Father, nothing threatens you,
See, Mother, the terror
That led you astray
Is already receding.
Was there ever a feast
Where in secret
We were both the guests
And also the Hosts?