Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Die Frau ohne Schatten 

Radio Broadcast of Saturday, February 15, 1 P.M.

Broadcast Frau hdl 214
The Emperor (Torsten Kerl) and the Empress (Schwanewilms) in Keikobad's domain
© Beth Bergman 2014
The 2013–14 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®, with generous long-term support from 
The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation,
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

Die Frau ohne Schatten

Music by Richard Strauss
Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Archive performance of November 7, 2013  
THE CAST  (in order of vocal appearance)
Nurse mezzo, ILDIKÓ KOMLÓSI 
Spirit Messenger bass-baritone, RICHARD PAUL FINK
Emperor tenor, TORSTEN KERL
Empress soprano, ANNE SCHWANEWILMS
Falcon soprano, JENNIFER CHECK
Hunchback tenor, ALLAN GLASSMAN
One-Eyed baritone, DANIEL SUTIN
One-Armed bass, NATHAN STARK
Dyer's Wife soprano, CHRISTINE GOERKE
Barak bass-baritone, JOHAN REUTER
First servant soprano, HAERAN HONG
Second Servant soprano, DÍSELLA LÀRUSDÓTTIR
Third Servant mezzo, EDYTA KULCZAK
Voice of a Young Man tenor, ANTHONY KALIL
Unborn Children sop., ANNE-CAROLYN BIRD
  soprano, MONICA YUNUS
  mezzo, RENÉE TATUM
Watchmen baritone, DAVID WON 
  bass-bar., JEONGCHEOL CHA
  bass-bar., BRANDON CEDEL
A Voice mezzo, MARIA ZIFCHAK
Guardian countertenor, ANDREY NEMZER
Young Man Mime MATT GIBSON

Violin solo: David Chan
Cello solo: Jerry Grossman


The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
The Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus

Production: Herbert Wernicke
Set, costume and lighting designer:
    Herbert Wernicke
Stage director: J. Knighten Smit
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Donna Racik,
    Linda Hall, Robert Morrison,
    Jonathan Kelly, Patrick Furrer
Assistant stage director: Gina Lapinski
Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Children's chorus director: Anthony Piccolo
German coach: Marianne Barrett
Prompter: Donna Racik

Production a gift of a
    Managing Director and his wife

Revival a gift of Robert L. Turner

THE SCENES   Timings (ET)
ACT I 1:00–2:18
    Sc. 1The realm of the spirit
god Keikobad 
    Sc. 2The Emperor's realm 
    Sc. 3Barak's house 
ACT II 2:48–3:58
    Sc. 1Barak's house 
    Sc. 2A forest where the Emperor
is hunting
    Sc. 3Barak's house 
    Sc. 4The Empress's nightmare
and vision
    Sc. 5Barak's house 
ACT III 4:28–5:46
    Sc. 1Barak's house 
    Sc. 2The gates of the spirit realm 
    Sc. 3The fountain of the water of life 
    Sc. 4Keikobad's domain 

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel, 
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
    Elena Park
For more information on the broadcasts, 
    please visit
Send quiz questions to:
    Metropolitan Opera Quiz
    Metropolitan Opera
    30 Lincoln Center
    New York, NY 10023
    or e-mail
This performance is also being broadcast
    live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
    SiriusXM channel 74.


The opera takes place in a mythical time and place. While hunting with a Falcon, the Emperor of the Southeastern Islands captured a gazelle; she turned into a woman, whom he married. The daughter of Keikobad, king of the spirits, the Empress is a woman without a shadow — that is, she is unable to bear children. According to Keikobad's decree, unless the Empress gains a shadow before the end of the twelfth moon, she will be reclaimed by her father, and the Emperor will be turned to stone. 

ACT I. A Pacific island, legendary times. On a palace terrace, the Empress's Nurse, adept in black magic, hears the Messenger of Keikobad warn that the Empress, still barren, has only three days left. Leaving his wife in the care of the Nurse ("Bleib' und wache"), the Emperor departs for the hunt. He hopes to recover his Falcon, who flew away after the gazelle was wounded; the Emperor wishes to thank the Falcon for leading him to his bride. The Empress, waking ("Ist mein Liebster dahin?"), begs the Nurse to help her find a shadow, and the two begin their trip to the human world in search of a shadow, much to the Nurse's horror ("Bei den Menschen").

In the hut of Barak, the dyer, his three deformed brothers are fighting among themselves. When the Dyer's Wife throws a bucket of water on them, they begin to argue with her. Barak longs for children, but his wife, fearful of motherhood, lashes out at him. The goodhearted Dyer forgives her ("Aus einem jungen Mund") and leaves the hut. The Nurse and the Empress enter, dressed in servants' clothes, and the Nurse convinces the Dyer's Wife to deny her husband her bed for three days while the visitors act as her servants. The Nurse and the Empress vanish, and the Dyer's Wife hears the voices of Unborn Children begging to be brought into the world. Barak reenters, and she tells him to eat and sleep alone. Unhappily, Barak listens to the Watchmen outside sing of conjugal love.

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The Nurse (Ildikó Komlósi), the Dyer's Wife (Goerke), Barak (Reuter) and the Empress (Schwanewilms) in Barak's house
© Beth Bergman 2014

ACT II. The next day, Barak leaves for work, and the Nurse — disguised as a servant — conjures up a Vision of a Young Man to tempt the Dyer's Wife. Barak returns with his hungry brothers and provides food for some beggar children, infuriating his Wife ("Wahrlich, es ist angelegt").

Outside the imperial hunting lodge, the Emperor stands in the woods by moonlight, calling out to his Falcon ("Falke, du wiedergefundener"). When he sees his wife and the Nurse surreptitiously enter the lodge, his jealousy arouses him to murderous fury, but he cannot bring himself to act on it.

At the Dyer's house, the Nurse gives Barak a drink containing a sleeping potion. The Nurse then once again conjures up the Vision of a Young Man ("Wer tut mir das?)") for the Dyer's Wife, but his overtures alarm her, and she rouses her husband from his sleep, chastising him for his insensitivity ("Ein Handwerk verstehst du sicher nicht"). 

The sleeping Empress writhes in torment at her sin against Barak; as the Falcon repeats that she is childless, the Emperor is seen, following the Falcon into the cave. The Empress awakes, aware that she is responsible for the downfall of both Barak and her own husband ("Wehe, mein Mann!").

As mysterious darkness overcomes Barak's hut, the mortals are fearful, the Nurse is confident, and the Empress resolves to acknowledge her own humanity and to accept mankind's lot. The Dyer's Wife confesses to relinquishing her shadow, and Barak is enraged ("Das Weib ist irre!"). When the rekindled lights reveal that she is shadowless, he threatens to kill her. As a sword mysteriously appears in his hand, the Wife regrets her decision ("Barak, ich hab' es nicht getan"), but before he can strike her, they are both swallowed into the earth. The Nurse realizes that Keikobad has intervened.

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The Emperor (Kerl), the Dyer's Wife (Goerke), the Empress (Schwanewilms) and Barak (Johan Reuter)
© Beth Bergman 2014

ACT III. In an underground grotto in Keikobad's realm, the Dyer's Wife — in a separate chamber from her husband — is tormented by the voices of the Unborn Children ("Schweigt doch, ihr Stimmen"). She cries out that she loves Barak, who is ashamed of his violent impulse ("Mir anvertraut"). A voice bids them ascend a staircase.

A boat brings the Empress and the Nurse to the temple ("Hörst du den Ton?"), where Keikobad's Messenger condemns the Nurse to wander the mortal world. 

The Guardian of the temple urges the Empress to drink from a golden fountain, which will assure her of the Dyer's Wife's shadow. The Empress refuses to drink, and she sees her husband turned to stone as the cries of the Dyer and his Wife are heard in the distance. She refuses to save the Emperor at the expense of Barak's happiness ("Ich will nicht") — whereupon the fountain vanishes, and she casts a shadow of her own and frees the Emperor.

By a waterfall, the two couples, reunited and fertile, sing of their humanity ("Wenn das Herz aus Kristall"), to the praises of the Unborn Children that will be theirs.

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Anne Schwanewilms as the Empress and
Christine Goerke as the Dyer's Wife in Die
Frau ohne Schatten
at the Met

© Beth Bergman 2014


Richard Strauss (1864–1949) reflected twentieth-century influences while keeping alive the aesthetic of Romanticism. His most advanced and shocking scores, Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909), early established a regular following. Although Strauss also wrote more accessible crowd-pleasers, he tended to write his later operas mainly for himself. As a result, a number of works such as Die Frau ohne Schatten — considered by some to be his most inventive achievement — did not always find wide favor outside Germany and Austria.

Die Frau was the fourth of Strauss's six collaborations with Viennese writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who took some of his material from the Hafiz poems of Goethe. Hofmannsthal turned to mythology for the idea that a man who marries a peri (a supernatural being descended from angels) must turn to stone unless she is able to bear children within a year. Other sources were The Arabian Nights and the Persian poet Saadi. The figure of Barak the Dyer is Arabian; those of Keikobad and the Unborn Children are Persian.

The work's premiere, on October 10, 1919, has been called "the first great evening of the postwar Vienna Opera." Franz Schalk conducted, with a cast including Maria Jeritza and Karl Aagard-Oestvig as the imperial pair, Lotte Lehmann and Richard Mayr as the humans and Lucie Weidt as the Nurse. San Francisco Opera introduced the work to the American stage on September 18, 1959. On October 2, 1966, the Metropolitan Opera premiere took place, with Leonie Rysanek, James King, Christa Ludwig, Walter Berry and Irene Dalis. Karl Böhm conducted. The new production was unveiled on December 13, 2001.


For books on Richard Strauss, look to Bryan Gilliam's The Life of Richard Strauss (Musical Lives, Cambridge University Press) and the same author's Richard Strauss: New Perspectives on the Composer and His Work (Duke University), as well as Michael Kennedy's Richard Strauss; Musician, Man, Enigma (Cambridge University Press). Five Operas and Richard Strauss (Macmillan), a 1964 memoir by Lotte Lehmann, is long out of print but available from used-book sellers online in its original hardcover edition and in paperback reprints. Lehmann, the incomparable soprano who created the role of the Dyer's Wife in 1919, offers a first-person perspective on Frau and its composer. 

Die Frau ohne Schatten — possibly Richard Strauss's most daunting score — is usually cut in performance and on recording, although the Metropolitan Opera's 2013 revival of its Herbert Wernicke staging, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, was performed uncut. The best of the uncut Frau recordings available on CD is Wolfgang Sawallisch's 1987 studio performance for EMI, which boasts Cheryl Studer (Empress), Ute Vinzing (Dyer's Wife), Hanna Schwarz (Nurse), René Kollo (Emperor) and Alfred Muff (Barak) as its principals. The 1955 Vienna recording under Karl Böhm (Decca) remains treasurable for the Empress of Leonie Rysanek, here captured near the beginning of her long association with a role that fit her formidable talents perfectly. Rysanek's Empress also blazes in live performances of Frau under Böhm in 1955 (Orfeo d'Or) and 1977 (DG) and under Karajan in 1964 (DG). Georg Solti's Decca recording from 1989-90 is authoritative and beautifully played, with Hildegard Behrens a highly persuasive Dyer's Wife.

On DVD, the most striking option is Götz Friedrich's 1992 Salzburg Festival staging (Decca), performed uncut under Solti's direction and vividly cast — keep an eye peeled for twenty-six-year-old Bryn Terfel in the smallish role of the Spirit Messenger. Anne Schwanewilms, an elegant Empress in the Met's 2013 revival of Frau, takes on the same role in Christof Loy's 2011 Salzburg Festival production, conducted by Christian Thielemann (Opus Arte DVD and Blu-ray). spacer 

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