[Met Performance] CID:350813
Die Frau ohne Schatten {52} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/17/2003.

(Debut: Julia Juon
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 17, 2003


DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN {52}
R. Strauss-Hofmannsthal

Empress.................Deborah Voigt
Emperor.................John Horton Murray
Dyer's Wife.............Deborah Polaski
Barak...................Wolfgang Brendel
Nurse...................Julia Juon [Debut]
Messenger...............Mark Delavan
Falcon..................Claudia Waite
Hunchback...............Allan Glassman
One-Eyed................Daniel Sutin
One-Armed...............James Courtney
Servant.................Bengi Mayone
Servant.................Monica Yunus
Servant.................Edyta Kulczak
Apparition..............Garrett Sorenson
Unborn..................Angela Gilbert
Unborn..................Anita Johnson
Unborn..................Bengi Mayone
Unborn..................Edyta Kulczak
Unborn..................Ellen Rabiner
Unborn..................Diane Elias
Watchman................Roy Cornelius Smith
Watchman................Philippe Castagner
Watchman................Brian Davis
Voice...................Jane Bunnell
Guardian................Jennifer Check
Falcon Mime.............Ken Berkeley
Violin Solo.............David Chan
Cello Solo..............Rafael Figueroa

Conductor...............Philippe Auguin

Production..............Herbert Wernicke
Designer................Herbert Wernicke
Lighting designer.......Herbert Wernicke
Stage director..........J. Knighten Smit

Die Frau ohne Schatten received eight performances this season.

The revival was dedicated to the memory of Herbert Wernicke

Production photos of Die Frau ohne Schatten by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of John W. Freeman in the February 2004 issue of OPERA NEWS

The return of the Met's "Die Frau ohne Schatten" on November 17 showed just how well a boldly innovative production can hold up if it fits the mood and color of the work. The late Herbert Wernicke's designs (set, costumes, lighting) and staging (now recreated by J Knighten Smit) never betray the fantastic spirit of Hugo von Hofrnannsthal's allegorical fairy tale, or the opulence, by turn subtle and explosive, of Richard Strauss's most ambitious opera score.

It is this balance between delicacy of detail and grandeur of breadth that gives Wernicke's vision of "Frau" its chameleon-like flexibility and continual fascination. The use of mirror Mylar in the "upper world" scenes keeps one wondering what one is looking at, sorting the real figure from its reflections, whereas the dingy loft that houses Barak's dye factory, down in the mortal world, makes capital of factual earthy spaciousness. In the opera's final apotheosis, lowering the complex light bridge from the wings into full view, like a flying saucer about to land, Wernicke reminds the audience - as Strauss kept reminding Hofmannsthal - that theater can sell highminded art only by stooping to practical showmanship.

In most respects, this revival was a worthy follow-up to the original of two seasons back. Where Christian Thielemann had conducted a powerful, sure-footed performance with plenty of surging energy; Philippe Auguin now led a somewhat softer reading, rich in Romantic warmth and lyric flow. (This season, the score was presented with substantial cuts.) The orchestra played with open zeal, but the singers held their own against the rising Straussian tide. Deborah Voigt's sapphire soprano mirrored the sets in reflecting one gleam after another, whether describing bird flight in Act I or declaring the Empress's growing humanity as the opera unfolded. Her Emperor, tenor John Horton Murray, barring a few uncomfortable moments where Strauss attenuates the line in the upper register, blended dramatic steel into a flow of ardent lyricism. Deborah Polaski made the Dyer's Wife as sympathetic as the text allows, showing vitality and a restless nature under the drab trappings of a fed-up housewife, working her way from shrewish harshness toward eventual awareness of her husband's good nature. One doesn't associate a clarion dramatic voice with vulnerability or nuance, but this soprano, possessed of uncommon emotional agility, was able to project an array of moods, from despair and self-pity to tenderness and self-awareness.

As the husband, Wolfgang Brendel registered the fact that Barak's patience, while seemingly endless, had been worn thin by the stresses of earning his livelihood while enduring a barrage of complaints. Except when he finally, liberatingly lost patience, Brendel's baritone bespoke restraint and kindness. Julia Juon, in her Met debut, got inside the role of the Nurse, putting a fine edge on her lines, singing with expressive flexibility. The Swiss mezzo was able to capture not only a testy tone but accents of black humor (when slipping Barak a Mickey Finn), even of seductive allure (when introducing a phantom lover for the Wife). The supporting roles of Barak's brothers and Keikobads deputies were likewise cast from strength. In this production, there is an active role for the Emperor's Falcon, dance-mimed with vivid eloquence by red-costumed Enrico Villanueva.



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