Warlikowski nights in Munich: “Die Frau ohne Schatten”

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.



Wolfgang Koch and Elena Pankratova. Photo: Wilfried Hösl


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 as Kaiserin. Photo: Wilfried Hösl



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.


Elena Pankratova, Kirill Petrenko, Ricarda Merbeth

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.


The ensemble with Petrenko and Warlikovski at curtain call

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

The Cast

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

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