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Die Frau ohne Schatten (1992)

| Fantasy, Music | TV Movie
A year has passed since the young Emperor went hunting with his falcon and captured the Peri, who was in the form of a gazelle, and married her. She is still all light, neither human nor a ... See full summary »



(by: Opera in three acts)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Thomas Moser ...
Der Kaiser
Cheryl Studer ...
Die Kaiserin
Marjana Lipovsek ...
Die Amme
Bryn Terfel ...
Der Geisterbote
Robert Hale ...
Barak, der Färber
Eva Marton ...
Sein Weib
Andrea Rost ...
Die Stimme des Falken
Herbert Lippert ...
Die Erscheinung eines Jünglings
Elzbieta Ardam ...
Eine Stimme von oben
Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz ...
Ein Hüter der Schwelle
Manfred Hemm ...
Der Einäugige
Hans Franzen ...
Der Einäugige
Wilfried Gahmlich ...
Der Bucklige
Carmen Fuggiss ...
Die Stimmen der Ungeborenen / Dienerinnen / Solo-Stimmen
Petra Maria Schnitzer ...
Die Stimmen der Ungeborenen / Dienerinnen / Solo-Stimmen (as Petra Schnitzer)


A year has passed since the young Emperor went hunting with his falcon and captured the Peri, who was in the form of a gazelle, and married her. She is still all light, neither human nor a spirit, and if after three more days she casts no shadow, she must return to Keikobad and the Emperor will turn to stone. Since she cannot bear children unless she can find a human shadow, she asks the strange Nurse for help. The Nurse, who controls weird magics, brings her to the discontented household of Barak, a dyer, and his Wife. The Nurse attempts to purchase the Wife's shadow by promising her riches, an idyllic life, and a young lover. The Wife resists three times, and the Baraks are cast into an underground vault. The characters wander through eerily exotic settings while they recover their consciences, and all ends happily. Written by Fiona Kelleghan <fkelleghan@aol.com>

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User Reviews

A visual and musical feast
15 October 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

As a big admirer of the music of Richard Strauss, I recently saw this production and the production starring Luana DeVol with Sawallisch conducting as well as listening to the Karajan, Bohm, Sawallisch and Solti recordings. I was very impressed with both productions, if a little more so despite the cuts with the Sawallisch-conducted performance. For recordings, I was most taken with Karajan's and Sawallisch's.

This Die Frau Ohne Schatten though is a visual and musical feast. I like the opera very much, the story is very interesting and the music while not quite as lush as Der Rosenkavalier or Capriccio, as brutal as Elektra or as powerful as Salome or Ariadne is also unique with some bizarre moments but also some really sublime and opulent ones as well.

While it returns to the large orchestra and huge volume in sound you hear in Elektra and Salome, there is always room for some quieter chamber music sections.

Visually, Die Frau Ohne Schatten is simply wonderful. The costumes are beautifully tailored, the sets handsome and the imagery and lighting entrancing particularly in act 3. The camera work is really very good as well, perhaps a tad grainy at the start but as the production progresses it gets clearer.

With Strauss you are guaranteed great music. Die Frau Ohne Schatten has that, in fact I'd go further to say it has fantastic music. The orchestral playing is superb throughout, very emotional-sounding and rich colouring from the strings and woodwind in particular. The chorus as you would expect are excellent.

Georg Solti was one of the best conductors of the latter half of the twentieth century to me, and with his elegant baton movements, his eye contact and the clues he gives with his fingers he is riveting to watch, and I loved his use of orchestral effects. In conducting this work he may lack the nuances of Sawallisch, the romantic approach of Karajan and the expertise of Bohm, but none of these are unapparent and overall it is a very involved reading.

The staging was magical. Each scene moves seamlessly to the next, and the final scene on the bridge in act 3 is definitely a scene I won't forget. The sound also manages to be very vivid, making the musical experience even more exciting.

I thought the singing was very good. Eva Marton is past prime vocally and I do understand why some mayn't like her voice here. While it is still powerful, it has in later years developed a rather unpleasant wobble and some notes sound harsh at times. However, as I've said, it is a voice that while not raw and beautiful still has its power, and dramatically in this difficult role she is riveting.

Cheryl Studer is suitably sympathetic as the Empress, both in acting and singing. The Empress has some of Strauss' most inspired passages and Studer acquits herself with them as well as her voice soaring over the orchestra in a venue as vast as this.

Of the ladies, I found Marjana Lipovsek the most effective as the Nurse. During Strauss' time, people considered this role unsingable. Hearing the music it is not hard to hear why, the music itself is very jagged and unforgiving, but you can't have it any other way such as lyrical and light as the Nurse is not that type of character. I think of the Strauss mezzo roles(such as the Composer in Ariadne and Oktavian in Rosenkavalier) the Nurse is the most punishing perhaps especially because of the type of music required. That said, Lipovsek sings fabulously and her acting complete with stoops and swaggers really embodies the role.

Robert Hale is very good as Barak. His voice warms up significantly throughout the production, and he isn't too stiff an actor either, in fact it is like the voice in that it grows emotionally all the time. Sometimes though, he does seem rather frail. Bryn Terfel also makes a positive impression in a very early role of his with his lovely voice still intact, likewise with Andrea Rost as the Falcon.

Thomas Mosser was just good to me as the Emperor. I will give some credit and say he does act well and he has the best costumes of the entire production. Although like Hale his voice does get stronger, there are times towards the start where it sounds very underpowered. Maybe I am being unfair, having heard Kollo, King and Domingo in the roles, I was just expecting something a little more powerful.

Overall though, this production is splendid and a treat for the eyes and the ears. 9/10 Bethany Cox

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