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21.6.05

Summer Opera: Die Frau ohne Schatten

Strauss, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Théâtre de la Monnaie, 2005One of those operas by Richard Strauss I would like to get to know better is Die Frau ohne Schatten, but it is staged so infrequently that I may never get to see it live. As I wrote in my Opera in the Summer 2005 post, I could travel to Brussels this summer, where the opera is being produced, from June 8 to 29, at the Théâtre de la Monnaie (where the opera had not been given for some 40 years). Nicolas Blanmont reviewed it (Somptueuse célébration straussienne, June 10) for La Libre Belgique. After praising Jose Van Dam as Barak (who had never sung this role in his home country before this production) and Jon Villars and Silvana Dussman (the Emperor and Empress), he has some harsh things to say (my translation):

The only shadow in the picture, if one dares to say it, is Gabriele Schnaut who, as Barak's wife, is getting a late start at the Monnaie. The singing is still valiant, but the projection uneven and the voice, at full volume, is polluted by a vibrato of disturbing amplitude. The German soprano's age and appearance also pose a problem for the character that Hofmannsthal intended to be young and desirable enough to be still capable of having the thirteen children that Barak wants and to be afraid of losing her figure.
Blanmont does have good things to say about the direction of Matthew Jocelyn and the designs of Alain Lagarde, and the pictures of the sets are gorgeous. Another review comes from Serge Martin (La femme sans ombre repeint l'amour, June 10) for Le Soir (my translation):
On Wednesday, a real wave of applause greeted all of the protagonists of Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Monnaie. It is not, however, Richard Strauss's easiest opera. The esoteric and somewhat outdated libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal certainly complicates this symbolic tale, and Strauss's luxuriant music manages to make it even heavier. Which is just to say that, today, this opera can be difficult.
You can read both reviews in full for more information.

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