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This review is from: Strauss - Die Frau Ohne Schatten [DVD]  (DVD)
This great work, Die Frau ohne Schatten, by Richard Strauss was first staged in Vienna in October 1919. Here we have a top ranking production of it by the Bavarian State Opera staged with Japanese period costumes and settings in the Aichi Prefectural Art Theatre, Nagoya, Japan in 1992. Broadly speaking it's all about two married couples: emperor and empress and Barak the dyer and his wife and about how the affairs of the two families become intertwined, during the process of which the two women involved both lose their shadows for a while. Everything nearly goes badly wrong for both couples largely due to the machinations of the sinister nurse-guardian to the empress.
Whilst the emperor is away on his daily hunt, nurse and empress inveigle themselves into the hut-home of Barak the dyer and his wife where they cause a deal of trouble of one kind and another. Barak and spouse eventually find themselves in an underground vault divided by a wall soon after he has nearly struck her to death with sword after she has confessed to having deceived him in a number of ways. Barak's three disabled brothers remonstrate with him, Barak sinks into the earth and nurse and empress flee. Barak and wife find themselves in a subterranean vault, from which they are eventually released when a voice calls to them.
The scene moves to a rocky landscape outside a temple into which sails a boat bearing the empress and nurse. Abandoning the nurse, the empress enters a great door, behind which she hopes to find the emperor and throw herself on his mercy. When Barak and then his wife turn up separately, looking for each other, the nurse cruelly misdirects them. A messenger arrives telling the nurse that she has been cast out by the emperor and must wander among humankind indefinitely. The empress rediscovers her shadow within the temple and is reunited with the emperor. Barak and his wife are also reunited and his wife also again casts a shadow. It all ends up with emperor and empress, Barak and wife all singing individually and together with Barak singing a truly inspiring piece in C major: 'Now I will rejoice like nobody before.'
I loved every minute of it. As always, Strauss expresses the emotions so perfectly in the music and all the singer-actors give the impression that they are truly enjoying it all. There isn't a below par performance in the whole production. Although the recording was made 22 years ago and is not blu-ray, both sound and picture quality are remarkably good.. The staging is just right – neither too elaborate nor too sparse and I love the costumes, all of which seem so appropriate. Director, conductor and everyone involved deserve the highest praise for putting on such a high quality production, which also involves the voice of a falcon, the apparition of youth, a spirit messenger, the guardian of the threshold, a voice from above and the voices of unborn children.
It really is the most wonderful fairy tale one could ever wish for and it could not have been staged or performed better. The work is spread over two discs, which are accompanied by a helpful booklet in three languages: German, French and English. Alan Titus appears as Barak and Janis Martin as his wife, Peter Seiffert is the emperor and Luana DeVol the empress with Marjana Lipovsek in the role of the wicked nurse. This is the kind of production one can enjoy watching over and over again. It's one of the best.