Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Strauss, R: Die Frau ohne Schatten
Live Recording from Nagoya, Japan, 1992

Peter Seiffert (Der Kaiser), Luana Devol (Die Kaiserin), Marjana Lipovšek (Die Amme),
Jan-Hendrik Rootering (Der Geisterbote) Alan Titus (Barak, der Färber), Janis Martin (Färberin)

Bayerische Staatsoper/Wolfgang Sawallisch
Ennosuke Ichikawa/stage director)

Arthaus Musik: DVD 107245 [2 Discs: Released March 2011]

A welcome re-release of a famous but controversial production of an important and major Strauss rarity, his last with the Bavarian State Opera before Wolfgang Sawallisch (b. 1923) retired because of deteriorating health.

Die Frau is a reputed work seen rarely and hadicapped by an impossible plot-line and libretto from Hugo Von Hofmannsthal, but a favourite of Sawallisch's, for which he collaborated with a Japanese director for this unique presentation.

We found it alternately riveting and infuriating, its plot hard (maybe impossible) to follow, and the high-flown poetry of the libretto likewise. But there is wonderful music, especially for the orchestra, in a more advanced idiom than those to which he had retreated after Elektra.

Sawallisch was greatly devoted to the Japanese director Ichikawa, whose costumes and stylised movements dominate the production, not to mention the unusually pervasive darkness of the screen a great deal of the time, bursting into colour occasionally and with a feast of gold for the ending which, however, looks very dated these days.

I am saved from entering into a detailed description of the goings on, and of the singing (never less than acceptable) and prefer to point you to an extensive review in Music & Vision on the DVD's previous release, one from Robert Anderson which expresses our reactions closely and with some humour. It also has a number of video extracts which will help you to decide whether to add Die Frau ohne Schatten to your Richard Strauss opera collection; sample Peter Seiffert in the Emperor's big scene, which may persuade you to go for it...

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also Sunday Times review of David Pountney's production in Zurich - "The reasons for its rarity in UK are not hard to fathom"