Program booklet »Die Frau ohne Schatten«

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2 piccolos / 2 flutes 2 oboes / 1 cor anglais 3 clarinets / 1 bass clarinet 1 basset horn / 3 bassoons 1 contrabassoon / 4 horns 4 tenor tubas / 6 trumpets 4 trombones / 1 bass tuba percussion / 2 harps 2 celestas / 1 glass harmonica violin 1 / violin 2 viola / cello / double bass 2 flutes / 1 oboe 2 clarinets / 1 bassoon 1 horn / 6 trumpets 6 trombones / 1 wind machine 1 thunder machine / organ / 4 tom-toms


Richard Strauss Archive Garmisch-Partenkirchen WORLD PREMIERE 10 OCTOBER 1919 Vienna State Opera DURATION

4 H 30 MIN



SYNOPSIS BACKGROUND 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.

SYNOPSIS OF THE OPERA 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.

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For his part, the Emperor believes that the Empress has been unfaithful to him and wishes her dead. However, 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) Unborn Children: 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?









Richard Strauss made the world première of this opera a wel­ come gift to the Wiener Staats­ oper at the beginning of his term as director. So to a certain extent you have in the orchestra of the Wiener Staatsoper the original sound ensemble… ct When Strauss wrote his operas, he was in fact thinking of two orchestras as the ideal performers: the Vienna Philharmonic and the Dresden Staatskapelle, which are of course like two siblings in several key ways. It was not for no reason that the original homes of these two orchestras were also impor­ tant venues for Strauss world premières. Naturally, this means that a conductor can build on both wonderful performance traditions on the one hand and extensive knowledge of the works on the other. That is a keyboard that you can play quite differently from those in other houses. In Vienna and Dresden you can achieve a virtually infinite colour palette: you can pull it in to a chamber music sound, and if required push it immediately back up. The fact that the Wiener Staatsoper has just as good acoustics after its reconstruction as in Strauss’s day is another piece of good luck and increases the joy in ma­k ing

music together significantly – there are unfortunately enough other opera houses where you cannot hear particularly well, even on the rostrum. In addition, in Vienna and Dresden you somehow can never quite dispel the feeling that the door will suddenly open and Strauss will walk in. al Speaking of acoustics: in Capriccio there is the wonderfully ironic line: “The incurable fail­ ing of our opera is the deafen­ ing noise of the orchestra... The singers are forced to scream.” ct (Laughs) Of course most Strauss operas are written for a very large orchestra. A good conductor must accordingly always suppress, pull down, shade the orchestra, make Strauss’s fantastic instrumentation skills transparent and audible. If the musicians play too loud, not only does the sound cover the sin­ gers, but you can no longer make out the wonderful colours that Strauss painted with the orchestra. Ultimately, the rehearsals are also there for that purpose: to find the right acoustic ba­ lance. A big misunderstanding arises when in the context of Strauss operas some people immediately think of the opening of Also sprach Zarathustra or Ein Heldenleben. No, here we must be



thinking of Ariadne, Arabella, Capriccio. And at this point I have to sing the praises of the Orchestra of the Staatsoper again, because with them you don’t have to repeat time and again that the musicians must pay attention to the singers. No, in Vienna just as in Dresden, everyone in the pit is listening to what is happening on the stage. There is simply a culture of sound, music-making and accompanying. Incidentally, as we all know Strauss was extremely well versed in theatre and not only brought out a leaner version of Salome in the 1920s to allow the flood of sound from the orchestra to be better controlled; he also wrote in the Rosenkavalier score that it is left to the discretion of the conductor to reduce the number of strings if this will bene­fit intelligibility of the text. We don’t cut back in Die Frau ohne Schatten, but when necessary we reduce the volume. al In other words, a fortissimo be­ comes just a forte? ct Forte or fortissimo is essentially an indication of intensity and not a concrete amplitude. When you are looking at the architecture of an opera, of an act or for example of a Bruckner symphony and you analyse how to approach each highlight, what you have to do is allow the loud passages to come into their own in relationship to the soft passages. And of course in some places the build-up to a climax requires a certain Elektra brutality. But that can only be rather brief, because a lasting fortissimo is tiring for the audience; at some point the pressure simply becomes too great. There is a well-known saying that a person who screams is wrong. That also applies to the orchestra. Furthermore, we should not forget that a hundred years ago string players

were playing on gut strings, and the trumpeters and trombonists were not as well trained. So the loud passages required more bow pressure than is the case today, and the winds had to be reminded with a fortissimo to stay with it. Because of this, the dynamic markings today should not be taken literally. al Is that the reason why it was pos­ sible in 1919 for the opera to be per­ formed again with the same cast the day after the world première of Die Frau ohne Schatten? ct Especially since naturally there were not yet any Strauss singers. The cast of the world première included names like Maria Jeritza and Lotte Lehmann, in other words more lyric voices than are generally heard in this voice type today. al What is also unusual for this house is the fact that Die Frau ohne Schatten is being per­ formed uncut. That wasn’t the case even at the world première. ct That is what I have done in all my productions of this opera: in New York, Salzburg and Berlin. As good my colleagues’ cuts may be, the structure of the opera seems more logical and clearer to me, more understandable, when the music is played in its entirety. Let’s look just at Act 3, when the Nurse is growing increasingly out of control, and tries again to turn the tables and finally collapses. This happens in virtual waves that grow all the way to the climax. If you trim something here, the structure is no longer intact. Of course, the goal is generally to spare the singers, above all the Nurse. But all the artists with whom I have staged the complete opera so far have ultimately loved it, and it has always worked extremely well.




You mentioned the structure of the opera. The plot contains some ambiguities, mysterious­ ness, and questions. To what extent is the score clearer in this regard than the libretto? ct You know, I think that in terms of its content Die Frau ohne Schatten should be grouped together with Il trovatore. In that opera too it’s hard to follow who is whose brother, whose child has been thrown into the fire, etc. And quite honestly, we aren’t that interested in those questions. Some aspects of the plot can remain a mystery. After all, Die Frau ohne Schatten is a fairy tale. But the score is wonderfully clear. With his colourful music, Strauss has given us, the performers and the audience, a story that you can follow, and music that in fact makes the story clearer. al In Die Frau ohne Schatten, did Strauss intentionally carry out a review and assemble his earlier compositional achievements in a sort of modular system? ct Naturally, every composer has certain elements that they draw on time and again – that applies to Bach as much as it does to Beethoven. Or consider how much Brahms’s three piano intermezzi put us in mind of his piano concertos. And of course Strauss made reference to his earlier works. So in Die Frau ohne Schatten we find for example the Ariadne style, the Rosenkavalier style, and the previously mentioned Elektra brutality. On the other hand, there are passages that are reminiscent of Schoenberg, or others that in their transparency and pastel colours remind us of French music of the early 20th century, especially Debussy. al Regardless of the great climaxes of a work, every artist has pas­

sages they are particularly fond of. What might these be in Die Frau ohne Schatten for Christian Thielemann? ct Apart from the delightful interlude after the first scene and the Dyer’s Wife’s very insistent “Dritthalb Jahr”, I would mention especially the conclusion to Act 1. If this Watchmen’s chorus is done well, you should have a lump in your throat. It is not for nothing that when the last note dies away there is generally a very strange silence in the auditorium. But I am equally fascinated by Strauss’s ability to create atmosphere and his sense of good theatre, his perfect dramaturgy. The beginning of each act of Die Frau ohne Schatten has a specific relationship to the end of the previous act, and it is of course no accident that Strauss contrasted the calm ending of Act 1 with the extremely stormy conclusion to Act 2. al One last question: You are con­ ducting the performances from the ori­ginal score for the world première. ct I am so pleased that the Wiener Staatsoper is making this possible. I also had the opportunity to conduct Elektra and Arabella in Dresden also using the score from the world première. For a book collector like me, the wonderful quality of the paper of old prints is a haptic joy for me. But of course a score like that has a very special aura that I am happy to expose myself to.




DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN Die Frau ohne Schatten, a child of woe, was completed in the midst of heartache and tribulations during the war when, thanks to the compassion and goodness of a Bavarian major, Major Distler, my son, whose heart had not kept pace with his rapid growth, was saved from being called up early. I had already enrolled Franz as an officer candidate with the Foot Artillery in Mainz, but the Bavarian staff surgeon had the good sense to declare him unfit. These wartime worries found their way into the score, especially around the middle of Act 3, in the form of a certain nervous agitation that finally releases in melodrama. In summer 1918, when we were in the Salzkammergut visiting dear friends, Franz Steiner (who later gave magnificent renditions of my songs on many concert tours together, to Bucharest, Stockholm, etc.) and Frau Nossal, Baron Andrian brought to me in Aschau a proposal to take the opera to Vienna. In October 1919 the opera received its first dazzling performance there under the baton of Franz Schalk (sets and costumes: A. Roller, director: Wymetal) and with a magnificent cast (Emperor: Oestvig, Empress: Jeritza, Nurse: Weidt, Dyer’s Wife: Lehmann, Barak: Mayr). From this huge success, it set off on a long, tortuous road to different stages in Germany. In Vienna itself it was more often can­celled than performed due to the strenuous roles and difficulties with

sets and cos­t umes. It faltered at the second theatre [Dresden], where the staging was so inadequately prepared that after the final dress rehearsal I had to ask Count Seebach to postpone the première for several days. (The good Eva von der Osten had in the meantime harmed her voice terribly with highly dramatic roles.) Despite the excellent orchestra under Fritz Reiner, the performance suffered terribly from the inadequate Dyer’s Wife. It was not pure joy! It was a fatal error to entrust this work – with roles that can be difficult to cast and intricate staging – to medium-sized and small theatres so soon after the war. Later, when I just once saw the Stuttgart post-war production (“on the cheap”) I realized that the opera had little chance of success. Finally, however, it gained acceptance. Especially in the Vienna-Salzburg production (Krauss-Wallerstein) and later in Munich (Krauss-Hartmann-Sievert) it made a deep impression. Artistic people above all consider it to be my most significant work.





There are works that are so com­ plex and multi-layered that their opulence makes them difficult to fully grasp in one evening. Die Frau ohne Schatten is one such work. When you started working on this opera, did you deliberately identify one aspect that you wanted to focus on, or did you try to accommodate all the important ways of looking at this work – from fairy tale to psychoanalysis? vh I would say doing both is impossible. The story is without doubt complicated, it is rich and fascinating and touches on many topics. Some people say: the music may be lovely, but the plot seems very difficult to understand. The opera is certainly complex and includes many references made by Strauss and Hofmannsthal that are so steeped in the era when the opera was written that we don’t grasp them at first glance. This complexity cannot be reduced to a single aspect! I personally would have considered it a pity if we had put overly narrow constraints on the piece. This opera has so many windows you can look through, each of which lets you discover something new. Apart from that, of course not all aspects can be

handled in concrete terms. So we are intentionally leaving room for mystery and richness of association, without necessarily defining everything precisely. And if I succeed in telling the opera in a way that it will be understood, then we shall have achieved a great deal! ol In other words, the concept is openness. vh I’m always intrigued when other directors can say: “I have come up with the concept par excellence!” With Die Frau ohne Schatten, I simply don’t believe that is possible. The opera is so intricate that any attempt to establish a single line of thought for it is tantamount to reducing its expressive power. With just one concept idea, just one viewing angle, you cannot do justice to Die Frau ohne Schatten! ol The aspect of the fairy tale plays a very special role for you. vh Strauss and Hofmannsthal wanted this work, which is the most extraordinary in their entire extraordinary collaboration, to have a fairy tale quality. We now know that there is nothing more fragile than a fairy tale. The moment you explain it, try to pin it down and interpret the symbolism, it loses its magic. Of course, we all know that fairy tales are not just the story that is



being told, but have multiple underlying layers, some of which are not at all suitable for children. It is important to know this and address it! But when you are telling a fairy story you should not focus too much on that; instead you must allow the magic to have its effect. ol People like to follow the path prepared for us by the authors – the reference to Die Zauberflöte, which according to Hofmanns­ thal relates to the opera in the same way as Der Rosenkavalier relates to Nozze di Figaro. vh Die Zauberflöte, of course! It is about trials, but I think that Die Frau ohne Schatten delves even deeper, especially where the second couple are concerned, Barak and his Wife. This is not just a cheerful character like Papageno, which derived from popular theatre and has straightforward needs such as eating and drinking. Barak is a much more complex character. ol Before we come to the charac­ ters: the trial. Is the concept of the trial central to your work? vh I think that Strauss and Hofmannsthal ask us questions that touch the core of our being. Are are capable of reforming ourselves – by our own efforts? Can we place the well-being of others above our own well-being? And to what extent can we change, recognizing the complexity of the world and of life? It is about conscious change, not an unconscious maturing over the years. One of the key propositions is: we were not put in this world to live on our own. It is also a warning: remember that it is not just about you. Incidentally, it has a lot to do with fear! Anyone who is afraid does not dare to take even one step in a new, perhaps unknown direction. Change takes courage, be-

cause we never know exactly what the consequences will be. So there are two aspects: rejection of selfishness and a step towards the unknown. By the way, the Nurse does not succeed in this, so for her there is no happy ending. The others, in other words the Empress and the Emperor, the Dyer’s Wife and the Dyer, have no fear. We have to bear in mind that parts of the opera were written during the First World War. It was clear that something was going to perish, in a fashion more violent than ever before seen. All Europe was desperate. ol Do you find that the fragile wartime situation and the unstable pre-war period are reflected in the opera? vh I was amazed at how little Hofmannsthal and Strauss discussed the First World War in their correspondence. If they did, it was rather incidental, but never along the lines of: ‘Yesterday there was another terrible battle where 2,000 people died.’ Why was that? How can it be that two people who see that the world around them is collapsing and there is war on all sides do not talk about it? Then I realized: they didn’t discuss it because Die Frau ohne Schatten is about war, not ad­ dressed directly, but in a higher sense. They could not avoid dealing with the war in the opera, because as an artist one is challenged to adopt a position and state an opinion... So what position did they adopt? They said unless people change – not only in their behaviour, but also in the way they deal with love – the cycle of life, of transfer from generation to generation will be interrupted, and there will no longer be any going forward, any continuity. We must change our thinking, jump over our own shadow! No wonder a number



of women said at that time that they did not want to bring up children just to send them off to military service… ol So for you motherhood in the opera stands very specifically for motherhood in life. vh Yes, also. It is a symbol, but also quite directly: motherhood. I am usually a super-feminist in my productions. Roméo et Juliette, Dido and Aeneas: I have staged them from the woman’s perspective. In this case we don’t have to specifically take the position of the woman, it is central in the opera any­ way; the three women tell the story. I think that in this opera Hofmannsthal and Strauss took a pre-Feminist standpoint. Surprisingly modern, and when you consider that suffrage for women was introduced in Austria in 1919, the era and the opera are perfectly in sync. ol Are questions of role models out­ lined? Is it only about women and children, or is there a bigger picture here? vh You can see a wide variety of role models! Can I be a man without child­ ren? A woman? I find it interesting that this is actually the first opera that deals with the crisis of masculinity and virility. Barak and the Emperor are both surrounded by such strong women! I can imagine that Barak for example, even if he doesn’t show it, may be intimidated by his wife. She expects so much of him! And, let’s be honest: the Emperor is also not a particularly strong man. He looks like a hero on the outside, but inside he is weak. The opera is also about narcissism, about our relationships with each other, about the balance of power in relationships. And about the question of how we treat each other. ol That brings us to the characters. It is obvious why the Empress

and the Dyer’s Wife must be tes­ ted. But what must Barak learn? vh Barak is a fascinating character, very enigmatic. At first I didn’t particularly like him. I found him a bit onedimensional, a man who dreams of having a large family and does not see anything else. And that is the crux of the matter. He is not capable of seeing his wife as she is. Regardless of how badly she behaves, he is always appeas­ ing and caring. That can also be a form of control, this eternal evasiveness, of not reacting to someone. You can live with someone for 20 years and not want to see what the other person is like. It’s a form of cowardice – and it kills the relationship. Barak finally understands that. He doesn’t have to be macho, but his wife wants a husband who is strong and does not always equivocate with a smile. ol The Nurse is not human – yet she is so incredibly human! vh Absolutely! She is human being, even though she is not really one at all. She is similar to those people who believe they belong to a different caste and so reject all others. But the more she opposes people, the more human she becomes. I think she is suffering from something and is trying to protect the Empress and help her. She is like a mother lion who is willing to kill just to help her cub. It’s interesting, because after all she isn’t the Empress’s mother… The entire opera is about mothers, and the only person who behaves like a mother is the Nurse, who doesn’t want to have children and is punished… ol The Dyer’s Wife is not someone who wins people’s hearts from the start. Have you asked the question why she is the way she is? Are you interested in the reason?



vh I prefer to leave that question open. If you specify any particular possibility – sexual frustration or a petty dream of a rich man – it has a restrictive effect. She is someone who would like things to be different, she is ambitious. But the problem is that all she does is demand this better life, she actually does nothing to procure it. It is similar to the yellow vests in France, who demolish half the city every Saturday, but do nothing to make it better. On the other hand, she keeps giving Barak new opportunities – that is less noticeable in the libretto than in the music. ol Keikobad: How concrete is your vision of him? What is his moti­ vation? vh I see a reference to Nietzsche, his writings on God, who is dead or at least is invisible. His only function is to generate fear. This Keikobad reminds me of Dino Buzzatti’s tale Il colombre. In it, he tells the story of an ominous sea mons-

ter that a man is afraid of; in the end the man finds out that he himself was the monster that caused him to be frigh­ tened. For this reason, in Act 3 I put the Empress in front of the black curtain, because at that moment she finds herself. How often do we ask the question, regardless of whether Keikobad exists or not: did I conduct myself well? Did I accomplish what I am supposed to accomplish? ol For you, the opera poses ques­ tions not only about personal guilt, but also about the future. vh Actually, it is disturbing that we have once again reached a point identical to the way things were at the time of the world première of the opera! People must learn to change their attitude to the world and each other. If we do not radically change our thinking and our behaviour today, the generations after us will no longer find an earth where people can live…


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THE WRITING OF DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN I found the following entry on the original idea in an old notebook, under 26 February 1911: “Die Frau ohne Schatten, a fantasy play. The Empress, a spirit daughter, is childless. She is given the child of another. Ultimately, she returns the child to the real mother.” (‘The one who conquers himself. – ʼ) The second couple (to the Emperor and Empress) are Harlequin and Smeraldine (Columbine). She wants to keep her beauty. He is awk­ ward, a good soul. She gives away her child, to a fairy disguised as a fishmonger, with her shadow as a bonus.” This is the true heart of the story. Harlequin and Smeraldine came to mind as two Viennese folk characters. I wanted to write the whole thing as a folk play, with some modest musical accom­paniment, two contrasting worlds, the characters of the lower sphere in dialect. Once I had drafted the whole piece, I told several friends about it, including Strauss. I asked him if he could see this story as an opera, or it seems to me that perhaps he himself immediately understood it as the plot for an opera. The musical element of the trial and purification theme, the association with the basic theme of Die Zauberflöte struck us both. And so it was decided that we would develop both sets of characters in

the same style, in higher language: the Dyer and his Wife took the place of Harlequin and Smeraldine, or the Viennese tailor and his beautiful but dissatisfied wife. In 1913 I wrote the first and second act, and Strauss started composing immediately. In July 1914, just a few days before the call to arms, I had finished the third act. The composition was finished in 1915; the opera then lay on Strauss’s desk for four years. We could not make the decision to have the piece performed during the war. I did not start writing the same story in narrative form, which appeared first, until the dramatic version, i.e. the opera, was complete.



THE FAIRY TALE The fairy tale, by contrast, takes these existential fears very seriously and even expressly gives voice to them: the need to be loved, and the fear of being considered worthless; the love of life and the fear of death. In addition, the fairy tale offers solutions in such a way that child­ren can understand them. Some tales for example address the dilemma of longing for eternal life by ending with the words: “And if they have not died, they are still live today.” The other ending: “And they all lived happily ever after” does not for one moment convince child­ren that eternal life is possible. But it does hint at the only thing that can take the sting out of the narrow limits of our lifetime: an authentic bond to another person. Fairy tales teach us that when we have this kind of bond we attain the highest possible emotional security of existence and permanence of relationship; this alone can dispel our fear of death. If, as fairy tales also teach us, we find true love as adults, we no longer need to long for eternal life. This is suggested by another fairy tale ending: “They lived for a long time afterwards, happy and with joy.” (...)

The enchantment that we experience when we allow ourselves to react to a fairy tale does not come from its psychological meaning (although this is a contributing factor) but from its literary qualities – we experience the fairy tale as a work of art. It could not have the psychological impact on a child that it does if it were not predominantly a work of art. Fairy tales are unique, not only as a literary genre, but as works of art that children can fully grasp in a way that they comprehend no other art form. (...) The fairy tale is first and foremost a work of art in the nature of what Goethe describes in the prologue to Faust: “Who brings a lot, brings something for many.” It follows that it cannot be the purpose of a work of art to bring some­ thing specific for a certain individual. Listening to a fairy tale and absorbing its images can be compared to sowing seeds. Some seeds fall directly into consciousness, others set unconscious processes in motion. But the seeds that fall on fertile ground grow into beautiful flowers and strong trees; they reinforce important emotions, convey insights, nourish hopes and overcome fears.



A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF FAIRY TALES Once upon a time or not at all – this is how most Turkish fairy tales begin, and that says a great deal about fairy tales and their relationship with reality. Where did they come from? Nobody knows exactly, probably in connection with language, when language started to form nouns and came up with the noun “reality”, and went beyond sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell to contribute to awareness of others. Naming is one thing, embodiment another, a sort of sixth sense distinguishes between the name and the object, and this is roughly where stories began. In the Deutsches Wörterbuch the Grimm Brothers described the fairy tale as a short story which contrasts with a true story, a tale, a message which lacks a claim to literal truth, even if most of the fairy tales collected by the Grimm Brothers began with a straightforward “Once upon a time…”. The fairy tale not only tells about what allegedly happen, but also about what might have happened, and perhaps might still be true, like talking animals, plants and objects. In the process, the invisible becomes the stuff of dreams, the unheard draws on the overheard, the untouchable changes its shape, the tasteless edges on selfportrayal, and the odourless disappears into the trackless if possible.

The world had barely begun before it had to be explained. Its creation was the stuff of myth, its reason for being the stuff of religion. Playing with its possibilities has remained the stuff of fairy tales, to the present day. “Don’t tell me any fairy stories,” is what people say whose sixth sense – the imagination – hasn’t survived puberty. And yet in Wallenstein Friedrich Schiller puts sentences like these in the mouth of General Piccolomini: “A loving heart must also find the everyday world too narrow, and a meaning far deeper lies in childhood’s fairy-tales than in the truth that life teaches us.“ Since then humanity has grown up, and mostly contents itself with the fabulous. Who still tells the old folk tales? Parents reading to children, if they have time. And yet everyone still knows what a frog king is and how long Sleeping Beauty slept. The so-called folk tales are well named, and they have given us many turns of speech. Today, they are kept alive primarily by film, radio and TV, and are reborn in different forms as films or graphic novels. And they still leave traces. Fairy tales mean moral challenges by encounters with things that are



alien, never seen before, a semblance which must yield to the appearance of reality – or not. The impossible be­comes possible, injustice is transformed into justice. The occasional gruesomeness of the old fairy tales is due to the age in which they were created, which had a much more drastic system of justice, which is one reason several of them have fallen into disfavour. Even so, most have a happy ending, at least for their heroine and hero. As always, there are exceptions in the folk tales collected and edited by the Grimm Brothers in which at least the female protagonists are left with nothing, and are not only unrewarded but even broken. I’m thinking here of Clever Elsie who is unsettled by her husband and begins to doubt her identity (having thoughts which are entirely philosophical in nature) and loses this when her husband reinforces her doubts to the point that she “ran out of the village and was never seen again”. The other tale, All-Kinds-Of-Fur, is about a king whose beautiful wife dies. On her deathbed she asks him never to marry a woman less beautiful than herself. Despite all the searches, that only leaves his own daughter. The king wants her and only her for his wife, and the daughter flees into the forest and lives in a hollow tree trunk. Disco­vered by the royal huntsmen, she is taken to the castle to work in the kitchen, as nobody can recognize her with her ashs­meared cheeks and cloak of snips of fur. But at some point she betrays herself (how could a king’s daughter survive as Cinderella at the hearth?) and the king marries her. The folk tale says nothing about what she felt, and contents itself with the stock phrase: “They were married and they lived happily ever after.”

A typical case of the storyteller losing the thread. No discussion of fairy tales today is complete without the Thousand Nights and One. This is the most extensive collection of fairy tales ever, told in Arabic and bringing together texts from several centuries and a range of cultures, primarily Indian, but also Persian, Turkish, Egyptian and northern African, and appearing in many different editions. The frame narrative in which Sheherezade is telling tales for her life is believed to have reached Italy by the end of the 14th century, and has left traces in Italian literature. The actual work did not reach Europe until the 18th century in the baggage of the scholar and traveller Antoine Galland, who published Les milles et une Nuits en François in volumes from 1704 onwards. In his translations he took into account the culture of his fellow countrypeople, omitting something here and adding something there, which contributed to the unusual success of this publication. For German speakers, the most relevant edition is Die Erzählungen aus den tausendundein Nächten, a complete German edition based on the Arabian original text in the Calcutta edition of 1830, translated by Enno Littmann and appearing in 1953 (the orientalist Littmann was commissioned with the translation by the Insel Verlag in 1918). There are also the volumes of Tausendundeine Nacht based on the oldest Arab manuscript in the Muhsin Mahdi edition, first translated into German by Claudia Ott, who actually translates the sexual terms and descriptions, without resorting to the Arabic words (which are incomprehensible for readers who don’t speak Arabic). At a very early stage, Hofmannsthal had written an introduction to



Littmann’s slowly appearing translation, in which he shows himself to be a great admirer: “There are tales upon tales, from the hideous to the absurd; there are adventures and anecdotes, to the point of being grotesque, vulgar, there are dia­logues patched together from riddles and parables, similes to the point of exhaustion; but in the space of the whole, the hideous is not hideous, the unseemly is not vulgar, the breadth is not exhausting and the whole thing is nothing but wonderful: an incomparable, perfect, elevated sensuousness holds the whole piece together.” Several authors had already drawn on Galland’s treasure trove for fairy tales. While the Grimm Brothers in their Kinder- und Hausmärchen and Ludwig Bechstein in his Deutsches Märchenbuch and Neues Deutsches Märchenbuch were content not to overdo it, Wilhelm Hauff, in the introduction to the complete edition of his fairy tales, complains that modest fairy tales no longer had it as easy as their brothers – dreams. He describes the situation allegorically as a family party in which Mother Fantasy advises her Daughter Fairy Tale to don the cloak of the Almanach so that the wicked Aunt Fashion can no longer interfere with her, and to go happily to the children, who would most need her. Even so, his fairy tales, grouped in cycles such as Die Karawane and Der Scheik von Alessandria and drawing on much in the oriental repertoire, are more like the fashionable literary fairy tales than the simple folk tales, which were seen as preserving the old orallytransmitted tales. The tales increasingly became stories intended more for adults than for children. Probably the best known and most famous fairy tale narrative is Peter

Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte by Adelbert von Chamisso in 1813, which had a hero who sells his shadow to the devil for a purse which would always have money in it. Schlemihl obviously did not know that his lack of a shadow, which was mostly seen as a blemish (as attributed to vampires, evil spirits etc), would cause his problems. He tries to get his shadow back by throwing the purse away, but this does not restore his shadow. Then the devil makes him a second offer, which is that if Schlemihl signs away his soul to him, he would get his shadow back. Schlemihl resists the temptation and finds a new way to live, as a scholar, a travelling botanist and zoologist with a saved soul. In 1847, 34 years after Schlemihl’s appearance, Hans Christian Andersen, who came up with the most and probably also the most beautiful literary fairy tales, publishes a story with the title The Shadow in which he takes up the Schlemihl theme again. This time the shadow grows beyond its owner, a writer, becomes a man without soul who knows everything and has been about the world, and now wants to change places with its former master. Goodhumoured and gentle as the latter has remained, the shadow has its way with him, which ultimately leads to a dark ending which is not at all fairy tale like. The apparent fairy tale tips from the ironic into the macabre and communicates an image of reality which assumes that the author knows nothing of the world. Compared with this, the lack of a shadow of the Woman without a Shadow is an obstacle, but not a flaw. “For life flows through her body as if she were of glass.” The Woman without a Shadow, a figure of light who does not want to become guilty among humans,



and as a result will not accept the shadow which the Nurse has bought for her, passes the test set for her as a human. She sees the blood floating in the golden water and refuses this, as a fairy, with the only argument that counts for her: “Golden potion, water of life, I do not need you to strengthen me! Love is within me, and this is greater.”



THE SHADOW IS MOST BEAUTIFUL IN THE TWILIGHT Die Frau ohne Schatten is a self-contained world. A world with its gods, its rules, its castes and its geography. A world that we know but which we can still not grasp in its entirety. The work by Strauss and Hofmannsthal offers itself for numerous different interpreta­tions and cannot in any event be limited to a single interpretation. In contrast to most repertory operas, Die Frau ohne Schatten is not an adaptation of a piece or existing legend. It is an original creation which matured slowly and in the process has developed into a true fairy tale – there are few works which have taken this journey from stage to literature. But Hofmannsthal does not create this world from nothing: it unites elements of very different cultural backgrounds. As in a kaleidoscope, every image used and every reference point returns, mixing with the others. The more consistently you follow a file, the more you establish that Die Frau ohne Schatten hides unexpected worlds. This intermingling is reflected in Strauss’s score, whose leitmotifs are repeatedly combined to create an acoustic universe which is in constant evolution. The extreme complexity makes Die Frau ohne Schatten a symbol of a culture which has KS TOMASZ KONIECZNY as BARAK

reached a form of overabundance. But the civilization it is a fruit of is tottering at just the moment that the authors begin to outline it in 1911. On its creation in 1919 the world was entering a new age. The manuscript and reception of Die Frau ohne Schatten are marked by the foreshadowings of the First World War. This is a transitional work, created on the “threshold of death” (Act III, scene 2). The pinnacle of a civilization which is already on the way to its downfall.

SYNCRETISM AND PALIMPSESTS One of the characteristics of Hofmannsthal’s literature is his strength in making use of motifs from earlier works and simply identifiable quotes or less obvious traces. In his essay Hofmannsthal, Verzicht und Metamorphose Jean-Yves Masson describes him as “an author who constructs his literature on the literature of others and works from libraries”. This origin is clear in Hofmannsthal in 1922 with the publication of a book by his friends, a collection of his aphorisms, mixed in with thoughts from his favourite authors. The libretto



of Die Frau ohne Schatten is the perfect example of this syncretism with numerous literary sources and variations in time and space. At the heart of the intrigue of Die Frau ohne Schatten there is a deal between a dissatisfied human – the Dyer’s Wife – and a seductive power – the Nurse. Hofmannsthal borrows this classic theme of a pact with the devil from the most famous work of its kind, Goethe’s Faust (1808) – in his texts he also compares the Nurse with Mephistopheles, but he changes the content: the shadow replaces the soul. Hofmannsthal takes this variant from Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte, in which a poor young man is ready to sell his shadow to the devil for endless wealth. This novel by Adelbert von Chamisso appeared in summer 1813, and was an immense success throughout Europe. In the following year E.T.A. Hoffmann made Schlemihl one of the secondary characters in Die Abenteuer der Silvesternacht, Hans Christian Andersen alluded to the story in his fairy tale The Shadow (1847), and you even find it in Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach (1881). Not content with taking over the shadow motif, Hofmannsthal uses it as a symbol of the mystery of procreation, an idea which he borrowed from the ballad Anna (1838) by the poet Nikolaus Lenau. Thanks to this interplay of associations and fusions, he relocates and extends Faust’s involvement. The human wealth no longer consists of ownership of an immortal soul, but the ability to replace itself over generations.

THE STORY OF A FAIRY Another main theme of Die Frau ohne Schatten is cursed union between a

fairy – the Empress – and a mortal – the Emperor. As the daughter of Keiko­ bad, the omnipresent and invisible god, and a woman who probably died in the birth, the Empress is raised by a Nurse on a remote island, to protect her from her natural inclination to humans. Like Dionysus, whose mother was destroyed by the vision of Zeus in all his glory, she is given at her birth to a companion in “the shape of a monster” and a being halfway between human and god, who is entrusted with her upbringing. Like Sleeping Beauty, she is sent into exile and overprotected, to save her from an unavoidable fate. The primary model for the Empress is the fairy/nymph Kerestani, a character in the play La donna serpente (1762) by the Italian author Carlo Gozzi, who Richard Wagner took as a model in the libretto in his first opera, Die Feen. La donna serpente begins with a hunting scene. Prince Farruscad follows a hind, and shortly before he reaches it he stumbles into a river. He follows her to the bed of the river and lands in a dry grotto. The hind has transformed into a wonderfully beautiful young woman. This is the fairy Kerestani. She agrees to marry him under the condition that he never tries to discover her name and her true nature, just as in the legend of the fairy Melusine. The theme of a marriage between a fairy and a mortal isn’t restricted to western culture. There are numerous examples in stories from all over the world. In India, the European fairies are similar to the asparas, nymphs of great beauty who stay eternally young, can transform themselves at will, and who delight the gods with their dancing. The Rig Veda, the oldest known Hindu text, tells the legend of the fairy



Urvashi, who is abducted by a demon and saved by King Pururavas. They fall in love at first sight, but can only love in the darkness of night, as Pururavas can never show himself naked to her. Their union is tolerated by the gods, but it must end on the day when the king sees their first child. Like Die Frau ohne Schatten, procreation here is the result of a transgressive union which is tolerated provisionally. Although India seems remote from Hofmannsthal, the similarity of this legend, the piece by Gozzi and Wagner’s Die Feen nevertheless seems confirmed at the end of the 19th century. It is interesting to note that Urvashi was born from the thigh of the being Naranarayana, whose root means “thigh” in Sanskrit, just as Dionysus is born from Zeus’s thigh. This detour through Indian mythology makes it possible to establish an unexpected relationship between Die Frau ohne Schatten and Ariadne auf Naxos, a project proposed by Hofmannsthal to Strauss to deepen their collaboration with regard to Die Frau ohne Schatten, by the similarity between Bacchus (the Roman name for Dionysus) and the Empress, two godlike beings with a mortal mother, who discover the world and their powers in the experience of love and sexuality.

THE ETERNAL EAST The East, as described in the Arabian Nights or imagined by European au­ thors, is another source of motifs and references in which Hofmannsthal unashamedly fishes to create his story Die Frau ohne Schatten. The motifs of water, life and the talking bird are all borrowed from the story Farizade au sourire

de rose. Barak and Keikobad owe their names to an oriental piece by Gozzi, Turandot. Keikobad is the absent father of the Princess Adelma and Barak, the surname the tartar Hassan adopted on his arrival in China. The name Keikobad also allows Hofmannsthal to open up the world of Die Frau ohne Schatten to creatures and heroes of Persian my­ thology. In the Book of Kings by the poet Firdausi, Kay Kobad is a member of the legendary dynastic of the Kayanids, whose representatives include the he­roes of the Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrianism. The Empress reminds us of the peri, female spirits of great beauty who were presented in very modern form at the end of the 19th century in painting and western sculpture. The red falcon is associated with the mythical bird Simorgh and the symbol of the Faravahar, the Zoroastrian principle according to which the human spirit exists before birth, endures beyond death and evolves in the direction of progress and perfection. These allusions to Zoroastrianism make possible the connection with Mozart’s Magic Flute an openly acknowledged model for Die Frau ohne Schatten – through the figure of Sarastro, the freemasonic avatar of Zoro­astrianism, and also an allusion to Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and the “superman” label, where the Empress embodies the antithesis.

THE VIENNESE MIRACLE The libretto of Die Frau ohne Schatten also overflows with references to biblical stories and Jewish narrative tradition. The figure of the Nurse also reflects the legend of Lilith, Adam’s first compa-



nion, who became a demon associated with the night and the wind, who flies and kills the newborn. The Young Man, a recurring model of the painters of the Vienna Secession, recalls the legend of the Golem of Prague, and the original temptation as described in Genesis and carried out by the snake, the nickname for the Nurse. The sources of Hofmannsthal’s inspiration seem endless, but these few examples allow us to capture the essence of his poetic art. His writing is based on analogies, associations and overlaps. From old and multilayered elements he creates a new familiar but complex subject which implies more than it states. Could this complexity have arisen anywhere other than Vienna at the turn of the 20th century? Nothing could be less certain. Hofmannsthal’s Vienna resembles the Athens of Pericles and the Florence of the quattrocento. It is a melting pot in which all the artistic and intellectual greats of an age are united. This kind of miracle is as rare as it is fragile, a fragility which the opera vehemently represents.

LIGHT AND SHADOW OVER EUROPE Hofmannsthal proposes the idea of Die Frau ohne Schatten to Strauss in a letter dated 20 March 1911. The first two acts of the libretto were completed in July 1914. The text of the last act is complicated, and is delayed by Hofmannsthal’s conscription and the drawn-out conflict. Stefan Zweig, a later collaborator of Strauss’s, devotes a full chapter to the prewar years in his autobiography The World of Yesterday, with the title Light and Shadow over Europe. He describes

Vienna as Europe’s capital, which has reached its intellectual and cultural peak. Its light dominates the world. The old Emperor Franz Joseph, who had been in power since 1848, was the heir of the Habsburg dynasty which had ruled Austria for seven centuries. The country lived in peace, in a wonderful carefree state, with a powerful belief in the future. Nothing seemed able to shake the static order, the hierarchical society with its impenetrable class system. The conviction of living in a golden age was nevertheless accompanied by the sense of an imminent fall, which was already appearing in certain artists. A mute fear was in the air. Europe was at the edge of the abyss. The centuries-old Austro-Hungarian empire was threatened by disintegration, and the values of earlier centuries were undoubtedly out of date for the emerging modern age.

PLATE TECTONICS When Hofmannsthal started to write the libretto for Die Frau ohne Schatten, he seemed totally aware that he was living in a time of collapse. This is the sense of the last and very impressive scene in the second act. Like animals in a storm, the characters seem to sense an imminent threat which they cannot clear­­ly define. Their world consists of three strictly hierarchical levels, the upper or divine level (of the spirits and gods), the intermediate or imperial level (the Emperor’s palace is far from his subjects) and the lower or terrestrial level, where humans are born, live, suffer and die. But this static organization is actually influenced by opposing forces. The Emperor wants to enter the upper



level through his isolation and his contempt for humanity. The Empress has descended to the intermediate level to unite with the Emperor, and travels to humanity together with her Nurse. The Dyers reject their status by refusing to bring children into the world. These frictions feed the action. Throughout the opera there is the idea of an up­ rising, an impending revolution which will lead to a new order.

THE TWILIGHT OF A SUMMER NIGHT As Strauss puts it, Die Frau ohne Schatten is the “last Romantic opera” of a civilization which has reached its end and must be reborn. The world described in this work is the reflection of an aging Viennese society. The problem of the petrified Emperor is the starting point for all the Empress’s initiatives throughout the entire opera. What does petrification symbolize for an emperor if not the end of his direct successors in the dynasty? How can you overlook this metaphor for the person of the old Franz Joseph, whose only male heir died in the prime of life and who decides on his Diamond Jubilee in 1908 to expand the family crypt to make room for his future coffin? The work is full of allu­sions to the imperial family. The red falcon as the origin of the union between the Emperor and the Empress refers to the environment of the Habichts, who accor­ding to legend gave their name to the dynasty and first fiefdoms of the Habsburgs. Hofmannsthal’s Empress also has much of “Sisi” about her. Both are married to remote rulers who come to them at night after spending the day on the hunt or at war.

Both love their freedom, yearn for their simple and happy childhood, and are trapped in a golden cage. One enjoys immortal beauty, the other has kept her eternal youth by forbidding all to paint or photograph her after her 31st birthday. However, it is a Shakes­ pearean queen – Titania – who makes possible an even closer link between the two empresses. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, like Die Frau ohne Schatten, is about fairies, metamorphoses, a transgressive union between a mortal and an immortal, sensuous dreams and loss of childhood. Titania was the nickname “Sisi” chose to sign her personal correspondence and poems. On all her travels and at all her holiday destinations she always had a representation of this character with her. There are also scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream which Hans Makart, Gustav Klimt’s teacher, decorated the walls of the Hermesvilla (the messenger of the gods) with, erected by Emperor Franz Joseph like a “castle of dreams” in the middle of a hunting ground in an attempt to keep her close to Vienna…

ONCE UPON A TIME … This “historically prompted” reading of Die Frau ohne Schatten is seductive, but largely insufficient to capture the work in its globality. The confrontation between the two couples, the Emperor/ Empress and Barak/Dyer’s Wife, offers an example of the gripping complexity of love – the constant tension between the extraordinary and the normal, ani­ mality and domesticity, freedom and captivity and invites us to a psychological or sociological solution of the work. The circumstances of the meeting



between the Emperor and the Empress express the metaphor of a rape and an abortion which involves a Freudian approach. There are other readings to be considered, symbolic, philosophical, metaphysical. The strength of this work lies in its overlaps and overlays. As never before, Strauss and Hofmannsthal have created a complex network of relationships and meanings. It seems impossible to untangle all the threads – but is this really necessary?

Die Frau ohne Schatten is primarily a story, and it is not necessary to reveal all its secrets. On the contrary, the magic of stories requires mystery to exist. The heart understands what Cartesian reason resists. The beauty of the work also exists in this obscure and unfathomable aspect – a reminder of the complexity of a world which is in the process of experiencing its last fire. And the shadow is never more beautiful than in the twilight.




In the middle there is a gap, the human is missing: Attaining this is the meaning of the whole piece – likewise in the music: Only in the third act will the voice of the Empress take on her full human sound – the animal and ghostly elements will then appear in a higher medium merged into a new entity.


A GIFT TO THE PEOPLE OF VIENNA DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN PERFORMED IN THE HAUS AM RING IN 1919 Viennese music lovers were lucky enough to experience the première of Richard Strauss’ and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s fourth joint opera, Die Frau ohne Schatten, held here at the Haus am Ring. Even today, all these years later, they proudly remind every­ one of this fact – after all, this was one of the rare treasures in the rather sad catalogue of premières of the Viennese opera. But even then Vienna would not have been Vienna if the initiatives put in place to bring the work to its world première here had not already incited sceptical opposition. The positive preliminary reports from the supporters were dismissed as “advertisements that were eagerly run by the willing press, which encouraged the necessary tension for the sensational audience”. Strauss was designated as director of the Vienna Opera and the première of one of his own works at this very theatre, was seen by some as a sombre harbinger of the fact that the beloved stage had been taken over by Strauss. The alle­ gations, suspicions and journalistic attacks went so far that Strauss had been prepared at short notice to bring Die Frau ohne Schatten out elsewhere (Hofmannsthal had already expressed

his distain for the Danube metropolis as a première venue). And as a result, Strauss wrote the following to his codirector Franz Schalk: “I thought that Frau ohne Schatten would be my gift to Vienna before it was actually released. If that has been misinterpreted, then I’d like to withdraw the work.” However, even if you want to accuse Schalk of helping to kick Strauss out of the management at a later date, you can at least be grateful to him for saving Frau ohne Schatten for Vienna and preventing the opera from being cancelled. But even after the mood had cooled down for the time being and the preparations for the première were in full swing, unexpected difficulties arose: Lotte Lehmann, the actor planned to play the Dyer’s Wife, saw the huge demands of the task as being a danger to her voice and wanted to pull out of the production. “What are they going to say to this fool?” the incensed composer wrote to Schalk – but he was friendly and diplomatic towards the singer herself, so that she ultimately stayed and performed during the première. It finally took place on 10th October 1919 with a star cast that was pleasing on the eye as well as the ear: Apart from the already mentioned



Lehmann, Maria Jeritza (Empress), Karl Aagard Oestvig (Emperor), Richard Mayr (Barak) and Lucy Weidt (Nurse) sang under Franz Schalk. Speaking of Lotte Lehmann and her fear of the role, if you look at the rehearsal and performance schedule of the Vienna State Opera during this memorable October, you’ll be able to see a peculiarity (or, better put, an unthinkable curiosity) today: The day right after the première of Frau ohne Schatten, the opera was performed again with the same cast – and none of the actors claimed that their voices were damaged. In any case, all participants on stage and in the orchestra pit received unanimous praise. But there was no praise given to the piece itself. This was because, as in the run-up to the première, there were two camps whose views completely contradicted one other. Statements such as “perhaps the greatest masterpiece that has graced the stage since the death of Wagner himself” (Georg Bittner) directly contradicted others such as “the work of one of the most extraordinary talents, but who, beyond talent, lacks the experiential humanity, the gift of transformation, only from which great style of artistic creation grows” (Paul Bekker). Hofmannsthal was praised as a “new gilder of old poetry, clever and artful like no other” (Wiener Zeitung) or dismissed as a “lyri­cist, overwhelmed by modern pathological perversity” (Reichspost). But the audience gave their own, positive judg­ment on the opera: Within nine years the production was performed at least 39 times! Two years after assuming the position of director of the Vienna State Opera, Clemens Krauss produced a new production of the work – under

his own direction and in the highly acclaimed production of Lothar Wallerstein, Krauss’ wife Viorica Ursuleac (The Empress) sang, along with Josef Kalenberg (The Emperor), Gertrude Rünger (Nurse), again Lotte Lehmann (The Dyer’s Wife) and Josef Manowarda (Barak), who later became a fanatical Nazi. Krauss, who was also supposed to work as a librettist for Strauss on Capriccio, already began to advise the composer “from the point of view of the theatre director, director, dramatist” in this production of Frau ohne Schatten. Among other things, he had an influence on the set designer, Roller, so that, for example, “a dyer’s yard developed from the dyer’s room” – this was immediately picked up on by Julius Korngold and praised in his review in the Neue Freie Presse. In 1934, Clemens Krauss even took the production on a guest tour to Venice on the occasion of the Biennale. A total of 200 people travelled from Haus am Ring on twelve railway carriages bringing Così fan tutte to the premiere at the Teatro La Fenice (!) opera house on 14th September and also Frau ohne Schatten to the first all-Italian (acclaimed) première on 16th September. Here we find another curiosity: The Mozart Opera and the Strauss Opera were performed with the same cast within just two days! By 1934, the production was running at least 14 performances and when a new production in 1939 under Rudolf Moralt (with Heinz Kraayvanger as Emperor, Daniza Ilitsch as The Empress, Karl Kamann as Barak and Anny Konetzni as The Dyer’s Wife) was added to the list, this made for another two performances. During the final years of the war (more precisely from 18th November 1943), the di-



rector of the State Opera then and also after that date, Karl Böhm, started up an­other new production – this time directed by Rudolf Hartmann. The cast for the première included Torsten Ralf (The Emperor), Hilde Konetzni (The Empress), Elisabeth Höngen (Nurse), Josef Herrmann (Barak) and Else Schulz (The Dyer’s Wife). After six performances of this production, Frau ohne Schatten was no longer performed in its entirety in Vienna for a long time. (At the Vienna Konzerthaus in 1947, Karl Böhm premièred the symphonic fantasy Frau ohne Schatten on the podium of the Wiener Symphoniker and twice premièred a shortened concert version of the opera (with Set Svanholm as Emperor, Eleanor Steber as Empress, Elisabeth Höngen as Nurse, Karl Kamann as Barak and Christel Goltz as his wife, among others). The next Frau ohne Schatten production was released on the occasion of the reopening on 9th November 1955 – again a production by Rudolf Hartmann and again under the direction of Karl Böhm. “A fairy tale opera for adults” was how Herbert Schneider described the work in the Neuer Kurier and then was not so enthusiastic about in his comments about the production itself (“the house was certainly not sold out”): Rudolf Hartmann has staged the piece safely and solidly in its conventional superficiality.” The musical achievements were also somewhat mixed according to his taste: He praised Karl Böhm, Leonie Rysanek (The Empress), Christel Goltz (The Dyer’s Wife) and the Nurse in the production, Elisabeth Höngen, but he criticised Hans Hopf’s Emperor and Ludwig Weber’s Barak. This production ran for four years and 13 performances before being axed and finally replaced in 1964.

With a choice cast, Herbert von Karajan resurrected the play with its premiere at the end of his time as director at the state opera on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Richard Strauss in his own production and in the stage design of Günther Schneider-Siemssen – the double première had a partly different cast – but for the time being no reprises followed. (11th June 1964: Jess Thomas (The Emperor), Leonie Rysanek (The Empress), Grace Hoffman (Nurse), Christa Ludwig (The Dyer’s Wife), Walter Berry (Barak), 17th June 1964: Jess Thomas (The Emperor), Gundula Janowitz (The Empress), Grace Hoffman (Nurse), Gladys Kuchta (The Dyer’s Wife), Otto Wiener (Barak)). “An evening of superlatives” was the headline of the Wiener Zeitung about this new production, while the reviewer at the Kurier mentioned “Tensions even in the meditative”. The production continued on 16th January 1977 – for the time being again under Karl Böhm (with Matti Kastu as The Emperor, Leonie Rysnek as The Empress, Walter Berry as Barak and Birgit Nilsson as The Dyer’s Wife). Franz Endler spoke about this revival in the press saying, “Seldom could one enjoy and consider so much on an opera evening ... that’s how the opera, the genre and the Vienna Institute should stay.” On 11th December 1999, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the work, in a sense, Frau ohne Schatten premièred in a sensational production by Robert Carsen. Carsen narrated the emblematic fairy tale about motherhood, selfishness, and empathic spousal happiness from the perspective of Freud’s psychoanalysis: A feeling of guilt over her fa­t her that stemmed from childhood



makes The Empress infertile and therefore (and this is the corresponding symbol for Hofmannsthal) she does not cast a shadow. The controversially discussed direction also received a large echo in the international culture pages. For Manuel Brug (Die Welt), for example, Robert Carsen succeeded in creating a masterpiece: “You have to simply imagine the infertility of the shadowless Empress, the touching spiritual being with deep human longing, simply as a psychosis case study of famous patients in the Sigmund Freud Museum. There she lies as a hysteria victim Ann O. or Dora in Michael Levine’s luxuriously designed sleep treatment room and dreams of analysing her childhood. The Spirit Messenger, this is the doctor who initiates the hypnosis, her superego becomes visible as a quarrelsome Dyer’s Wife behind the transparent wall, which once again reveals the same room – as a metaphorical mirror of the soul.” Gerhard Rohde also wrote in FAZ that the opera could be likened to the business card of the Viennese opera repertoire.

Under the direction of Giuseppe Sino­ poli, who unfortunately died much too young, Johan Botha (The Emperor), Deborah Voigt (The Empress), Marjana Lipovšek (Nurse), Falk Struckmann (Barak) and Gabriele Schnaut (The Dyer’s Wife) sang. By 2003 a total of 24 performances had taken place, before Frau ohne Schatten disappeared from the repertoire for almost ten years. On 17th March 2012 the opera finally celebrated its highly acclaimed resurrection under former General Music Director Franz Welser-Möst and with Robert Dean Smith as The Emperor, Adrianne Pieczonka as The Empress, Birgit Remmert as Nurse, Wolfgang Koch as Barak and Evelyn Herlitzius as The Dyer’s Wife followed by three more performances. The current production, staged by Vincent Huguet and directed by Christian Thielemann, premiered on 25th May 2019 on the occasion of a double anniversary: The 150th birthday of Haus am Ring and the 100th birthday of Frau ohne Schatten were celebrated.




DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN SEASON 2023/24 Publisher WIENER STAATSOPER GMBH, Opernring 2, 1010 Wien Director DR. BOGDAN ROŠČIĆ Music Director PHILIPPE JORDAN Administrative Director DR. PETRA BOHUSLAV General Editors SERGIO MORABITO, ANDREAS LÁNG, OLIVER LÁNG Design & concept EXEX Layout & typesetting MIWA MEUSBURGER Cover picture MARIAGE FUNAMBULES (C) BERNARD BONNEFON / AKG-IMAGES Cover concept MARTIN CONRADS, BERLIN All performance photos by MICHAEL PÖHN Printed by PRINT ALLIANCE HAV PRODUKTIONS GMBH, BAD VÖSLAU TEXT REFERENCES All texts were taken from the première programme of the Vienna State Opera 2019. With the exception of the texts by Hofmannsthal, Strauss, Bettelheim, – all articles were written for this programme. English translations Andrew Smith. Reproduction only with approval of Wiener Staatsoper GmbH / Dramaturgy. Abbreviations are not marked. Holders of rights who were unavailable regarding retrospect compensation are requested to make contact. This production is sponsored by


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