Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Die Frau ohne Schatten

I just got back from watching the Lyric's production of Richard Strauss' Die Frau Ohne Schatten. For a comprehensive synopsis which I will surely fail at read here.
The low down. before the opera an emperor was out hunting and shot a beautiful gazelle that turned into a beautiful woman in his arms...immediate ecstasy (Lyric's translation not mine). It is now a year later and his falcon that helped him find his love is still missing, so he goes off to find it. The falcon comes to visit the empress and her nurse and warns them that if the empress does not have a shadow in three days the emperor will turn to stone. They go about trying to trick the dyer's wife (the man dyes cloth k) into selling them her shadow...which is a heftier thing than we think because she has to renounce her desire to ever have children. She does it, but regrets it, and the Empress realizes she can't take the shadow because it will break the dyer's and his wife's heart. She goes to face her father (from whence the whole no shadow stone husband curse arose) and he was all like...drink the water of life and you can have the dyer's wife's shadow...and the empress is all like no I won't do it and this breaks the spell because she has become capable of human compassion (or something) and the emperor is saved and everyone is free to have lots and lots of babies.....

wait what? lots and lots of babies? where did that come in?

What I fail to mention is the huge role that unborn children play into this story. also how ridiculously Freudian it all is. Oh man my poor brain. So the shadow is a euphemism for the ability to have babies...yup. What's interesting about all this is that Strauss or Hofmannsthal (the librettist) put all of the power in the woman's hands. They have the ultimate "no" and therefore they control society.

oh man...at the very end when you're reaching the four hour mark and the Freudian nature of the whole thing is smacking you ungracefully like a ton of phallic bricks they bring out all of the unborn children wearing white carrying globes of light. It was too much...not that the piece didn't call for it...not blaming the lyric per-say.

So yes...have lots of babies, because it is not for your sake alone that you love one another, rather for the next generation.

Musically I vacillate on Strauss, I really like Der Rosenkavalier, and I was less keen on Salome. He's writing in the early 20th century, this particular opera is with a huge orchestra and written for Wagnerian voices. Deborah Voight played the Empress, and was quite impressive. All the voices were impressive, though the Emperor seemed at the end of his rope at brief moments. I think my favorite character was the orchestra. It was just full and lush, and because there is no recit and the whole thing just flows it is even more important that usual in setting the tone. According to the program notes the orchestra has upwards of 32 motives during the piece...I believe it. They were excellent and the brass section was phenomenal. My only complaint is that there was weird clicking starting part way through the third act.

The voices were good, I tend to have a harder time enjoying that type of voice, but I can definitely say they were all very good.

So in conclusion; I intellectually really appreciate Strauss, but I'm not sure this opera was especially my cup of tea. Neither was Salome...but that was a one acter...this one was four hours long...twas tough. (also I sat next to a strange smelling old lady...it's that old lady I'm covering up alcohol or cigarette smell with something not quite as foul but certainly not pleasant smell)

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