Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten
Host Keith Brown writes:
Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten ("The Woman without a Shadow, "1919) is a fairytale opera whose underlying theme is the contrast between the human world of light or consciousness, and the shadowy world that lies in the human collective unconscious. The beautiful Empress of fairyland possesses no shadow. She wants one badly, in order to please her husband, the Emperor of the South-Eastern Isles. With the assistance of her daemonic nursemaid she tries to connive one from a common mortal woman.
Hugo Von Hofmannsthal's libretto can easily be viewed from the perspective of Jungian psychology. It's surely the most esoteric one the Austrian writer provided to the German composer in the course of their long and fruitful collaboration.
This will be the fifth time I have broadcast Die Frau ohne Schatten over the span of more than a quarter century of lyric theater programming. Going back as far as 1985 I have featured recordings with some giants of the podium in charge of the musical proceedings, Karl Bohm and Josef Keilberth among them.
Wolfgang Sawallisch was especially devoted to this particular Strauss opera. He was one of its greatest interpreters. On Sunday, February 5, 1995 I presented the 1987 EMI recording with Sawallisch leading the symphony orchestra and chorus of Bavarian Radio. That three-CD recording was reissued in 2011 in the EMI Classics line. The lineup of singers could not be bettered: tenor Rene Kollo as the Emperor and soprano Cheryl Studer as the Empress. Also heard in solo capacity are mezzo Mariana Lipovsek and baritone Andreas Schmidt. The Sawallisch interpretation gives us the opera in musically complete form for the first time on disc.