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The Sunday Opera: Richard Strauss' "Die Frau ohne Schatten" from the Vienna State Opera

We’re returning to the Vienna State Opera for Richard Strauss’ “Die Frau onhe Schatten” on this week’s Sunday Opera (7/7 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 (Elza van den Heever) and Emperor (Andreas Schager). 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 (Michael Volle) and his wife (Elena Pankratova) and convinces the Dyer’s Wife, who is afraid to have children because of her loutish husband and his brothers, 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 include Martin Hassler, Evgeny Solodovnikov, and Thomas Ebenstein as Barak’s three oafish brothers, Tanja Ariane Baumgartner as The Nurse, Stephanie Maitland as a Voice from Above, Clemens Unterreiner as The Spirit-Messenger, and Maria Nazarova as The Guardian of the Threshold and The Voice of the Falcon. Christian Thielemann conducts the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus. 

After the opera, we’ll come back to earth with the first of Strauss’ much-loved tone poems, “Macbeth” performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Antal Dorati.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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