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The Sunday Opera - Richard Strauss' "Die Frau Ohne Schatten"

The Dyer's Wife and Empress from Strauss' "Die Frau ohne Schatten"
The Dyer's Wife and Empress from Strauss' "Die Frau ohne Schatten"

It’s a “dream” cast of Richard Strauss’ opera “Die Frau onhe Schatten” on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/20 3:00 p.m.) This highly symbolic opera with a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal has been seen as a quest for redemption through self-sacrifice as well as an “allegory of artistic collaboration and social engagement” which centers around the barren Empress (Leonie Rysanek) and Emperor (Hans Hopf). She is half mortal and will be forced to return to the spirit world and the Emperor turned to stone if she does not become pregnant (acquire a shadow) within three days.

To acquire humanity, the Empress visits the impoverished Dyer Barak (Paul Schoeffler) and his wife (Christel Goltz) and convinces the Dyer’s Wife, who is afraid to have children to, give her shadow to the Empress. The synopsis is rather complicated, but suffice it to say that visits through several realms bring both couples peace and happiness because of the Empress’ unselfish sacrifice.

Other members of the cast from 1991 include Oskar Czerwenka, Harald Porglhof, and Murray Dickie as Barak’s three oafish brothers, Elisabeth Hongen as The Nurse, Hilde Rossel-Maidan as A Voice from Above, Kurt Bohme as The Spirit-Messenger, and Judith Hellwig as The Voice of the Falcon. Karl Bohm conducts the Vienna State Opera Chorus and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

After the opera, we’ll come back to earth with a charming piece by Strauss, his ”Burleske for Orchestra” featuring Rudolf Serkin at the piano with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugen Ormandy.