Met Opera: Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman Without a Shadow)

by Rex Levang, Minnesota Public Radio
February 15, 2014
A scene from Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Johan Reuter as Barak and Christine Goerke as the Dyer's Wife in Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Torsten Kerl as the Emperor and Anne Schwanewilms as the Empress in Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Anne Schwanewilms as the Empress in Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) A scene from Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) A scene from Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten" with Ildiko Komlosi as the Nurse and Scott Weber as the Falcon Mime. (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) A scene from Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten" with Ildiko Komlosi as the Nurse and Torsten Kerl as the Emperor. (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) A scene from Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Anne Schwanewilms as the Empress in Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) A scene from Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten" with Johan Reuter as Barak, Ildiko Komlosi as the Nurse, Richard Paul Fink as the Messenger of Keikobad, and Christine Goerke as the Dyer's Wife. (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Christine Goerke as the Dyer's Wife in Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Christine Goerke as the Dyer's Wife, Johan Reuter as Barak in Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Johan Reuter as Barak in Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Torsten Kerl as the Emperor in Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Ildiko Komlosi as The Nurse and Anne Schwanewilms as the Empress in Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

St. Paul, Minn. — Richard Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten, which the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts this weekend, is a fairy-tale opera telling a lofty story of love and self-sacrifice.

The woman who is the title character is the daughter of a powerful spirit ruler, and the wife of an emperor. A fortunate lot, you might say. But she cannot have children — symbolized by her inability to cast a shadow. To gain a shadow, the empress must descend into the world of mortals, and witness the struggles and yearning of ordinary human beings.

The librettist of the opera told Strauss that this was their equivalent of The Magic Flute. But he might also have said that it's their equivalent of Wagner's Ring. Both tell myth-like stories, using elaborate, sometimes obscure symbolism. Both call on all the resources of the opera house: a big orchestra, and a cast of singers with big voices, and stamina.

It also poses big challenges to the scenic department. For one thing, the lighting people have to do their best to make sure that the lead soprano doesn't cast too obvious of a shadow. There are spectacular transitions from one realm to another. When the scene changes from the Empress's world to the mortal world, the Met's entire stage rises on hydraulic lifts to make the transformation happen. Not to mention fish that magically fly into a frying pan, and an emperor who almost turns completely to stone.

Those of us listening on the radio will have to use our imaginations for some of this — but tune in all the same. Even without the fish and the hydraulics, Die Frau ohne Schatten is always an event.

Listen to this Met Opera broadcast on Classical MPR on Saturday, Feb. 15, at noon.


comments powered by Disqus

On Now

Listen to the Stream
  • Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 5:46 Johann Sebastian Bach
    Musica Antiqua Cologne
    Reinhard Goebel
    Buy Now
  • The King's Hunting Jig 5:41 John Bull
    Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
    Buy Now
Playlist
Other MPR Radio Streams
Choral Stream
MPR News
Radio Heartland

You can now listen to Classical and Choral Music on your iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) or Android device.

Classical Notes Blog

Read more