That was a second consecutive night in Munich with the production of Krzysztof Warlikowski at the Munich Opera Festival – following the very successful premiere of “Die Gezeichneten” a night before. Therefore, my main challenge was to put aside impressions of the previous night and look into layers of symbolism created by the team for well-known work of Richard Strauss.
The plot tells us the legend of the daughter of the King of the Spirits, who being half-human, has no shadow: in our world, that means she can’t have children. While her husband, the king has a time pressure to reproduce or to turn into stone, the queen and her nurse launch into a desperate mission to source missing shadow. Their attempt to seduce some woman with the promise of luxury and eternal youth fails, while the story has a happy-ending, where both couples are reaching their aim – finding shadow for the royal couple, and rebuilding relationship for the dyer and his wife.
Traditional to Warlikowski, there is an abundance of quotes and references to other forms of art, mostly through the use of videos by Denis Guéguin. The symbolism of children and birds, playing mute roles is adding an additional layer on the top of Hofmannsthal libretto.
The cast delivered excellent portrayals of their characters. Wolfgang Koch created authentic, traditional blue collar worker, who makes providing for the family as his life’s meaning, while the young spoiled wife is longing for another life in luxury. Elena Pankratova as Färberin impressed by her vocal capability and artistic talent.
Ricarda Merbeth projected both sentiment and anguish, and the scenes on her memory lane were most touching. Her soprano is perfectly focused and well supported, with high dramatic intensity. Her husband, Kaiser, performed by Burkhard Fritz, was vaguely defined as a character, while vocally his performance was engaging, especially in the first part. As for one of the dominant protagonists, I should mention Michaela Schuster as a nurse, Amme. Her acting and costume provided that stage charisma was unmissable, supported by high-quality singing.
The supporting cast and chorus provided excellent support to the soloists.
The king of the night un-doubtfully was Kirill Petrenko, who made orchestra to respond to smallest gesture, and who crammed an unbelievable amount of energy into the dynamically moving score, at the same time providing the most sensitive support to his singers. The audience appreciated his contribution with a roaring ovation and thundering applause.
Even if the production is already more than 4 years old, I was very glad to have the opportunity to see it. It was also the first time for me to see and hear “Die Frau ohne Schatten”, thus covering almost half of his heritage – there are 8 more to go, while all most important works have been covered. The combination of beautiful music, engaging plot, smart and conceptual staging is very satisfying proposition and worth to pursue – like the experience of two great productions seen in Munich over the weekend.
Die Frau ohne Schatten
Opera in three acts
Composer Richard Strauss · Text by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Munich Opera Festival
Sunday, 02. July 2017
Conductor Kirill Petrenko
Director Krzysztof Warlikowski
Sets and costumes Małgorzata Szczęśniak
Lights Felice Ross
Choreographie Claude Bardouil
Video Denis Guéguin
Videoanimation Kamil Polak
Der Kaiser Burkhard Fritz
Die Kaiserin Ricarda Merbeth
Die Amme Michaela Schuster
Der Geisterbote Sebastian Holecek
Hüter der Schwelle des Tempels Elsa Benoit
Erscheinung eines Jünglings Dean Power
Die Stimme des Falken Elsa Benoit
Eine Stimme von oben Okka von der Damerau
Barak, der Färber Wolfgang Koch
Färberin Elena Pankratova
Der Einäugige Tim Kuypers
Der Einarmige Christian Rieger
Der Bucklige Dean Power
Keikobad Renate Jett
1. Stimme der Ungeborenen Elsa Benoit
2. Stimme der Ungeborenen Paula Iancic
3. Stimme der Ungeborenen Anna El-Khashem
4. Stimme der Ungeborenen Rachael Wilson
5. Stimme der Ungeborenen Heike Grötzinger
6. Stimme der Ungeborenen Okka von der Damerau
1. Stimme der Wächter der Stadt Johannes Kammler
2. Stimme der Wächter der Stadt Sean Michael Plumb
3. Stimme der Wächter der Stadt Milan Siljanov
Erste Dienerin Elsa Benoit
Zweite Dienerin Paula Iancic
Dritte Dienerin Rachael Wilson
1. Kinderstimme Elsa Benoit
2. Kinderstimme Paula Iancic
3. Kinderstimme Anna El-Khashem
4. Kinderstimme Rachael Wilson
5. Kinderstimme Okka von der Damerau