Sunday, November 7, 2010

Die Frau wirft keinen Schatten

Spirits are high in the bohemian garret: our long-suffering super (not to be confused with Benoit the Landlord) has spent an hour doing battle with the door, and we now have a functioning lock and a shiny new doorknob... and the darn thing is even straighter on its hinges!  Never has the act of leaving the apartment felt so much like a glorious assertion of freedom and independence.  During this week of No Opera Outings, I impulsively entered the labyrinth of Twitter.  The internet is a terrifyingly large and open place, but Twitter has so far given me not only opera news both thoughtful and frivolous, but also a number of contests for free CDs and discounted tickets, one of which I even won (album review later) so I'm sticking with the experiment for now.

I also decided to put my enforced performance hiatus to good use and discover a new opera through an old recording: a live 1977 Frau Ohne Schatten with Leonie Rysanek and James King as the Kaiserin and Kaiser, Ruth Hesse the Amme, and Walter Berry and Birgit Nilsson as Barak and his Wife.  I am aurally addicted and intellectually overwhelmed.  I cannot get enough of the sound; I think I've listened through it three or four times.  Trying to think about how this would be interpreted and staged gives the povero cervello quite a workout.  I turned to the Met's database, but found it difficult to get a feel for the Herbert Wernicke production from photographs alone; a review from its opening didn't help me much either.  I feel as though some further understanding is needed before I can productively begin an investigation of scholarly literature on the subject.  "Hofmannsthal's Response to the Symbolist Dilemma" sounds fascinating, but I can't concentrate on reading it while my brain is screaming "Religion! Power! Virtue! Gender!! What is going on?!?"  The music is achingly beautiful and thrillingly strange and it's presented by artists who are past masters... and I don't know what to make of it.  Suggestions for Further Study or personal reflections, Gentle Readers, would be gladly received.  Trying to answer the questions rocketing around my head could, I imagine, yield some interesting production choices: "What has the Dyer's Wife's past been like?  What do the Three Brothers mean?  What about the falcon?"  Hopefully I can soon say, as the Emperor does in the last scene: Nur aus der Ferne war es verworren bang, hör es nun ganz genau, menschlich ist dieser Klang.


  1. The Wernicke set for the realm of the gods is a big mirrored box, which plays wicked hell with the lighting, especially when the Emperor turns to stone. So cool.

    That brilliant red heap in the Met photos is the falcon -- there's a dancer in there somewhere. Don't know if that solution worked per se, but, like the rest of the production, it was cool to look at.

  2. Believe it or not I saw this cast sing Frau in San Francisco--my notes say in 1980. It was utterly glorious.

  3. @S. Thanks for the details. Playing with perception and effect in a mirrored box sounds as though it could be quite interesting. Maybe I can hope for a revival sometime soon.

    @Dr. B. Starry-eyed, inarticulate jealousy and vicarious delight! Amazing.


Start a conversation!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...