Die Frau ohne Schatten
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Die Frau ohne Schatten *

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Die Frau ohne Schatten

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La Bartoli IN LA
Susan Graham in Recital
Placido Domingo at LA Opera
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Photos: © Robert Millard / with permission of Los Angeles Opera
An orchestral interlude in the manner of a tone-poem vividly describes their flight to earth, during which the scene changes, revealing a riot of colors dripping fresh out of a dyer's vat. Indeed, the dyer Barak (Wolfgang Brendel, bass-baritone) lives and works here with his wife (Linda Watson, soprano) and his three deformed brothers - one-eyed (high bass), one-armed (bass), and hunchback (tenor). And it is into this poor dyer's hovel that contains everything the Nurse despises that she and the noble Empress descend.

After over two years of a childless marriage, the Dyer's wife has banished all thought of parenthood and pleads with Barak to do the same. It is her shadow that the Nurse attempts to buy for the Empress in exchange for a grand life of riches and the amorous service of a handsome young man - magically served up to her by the Nurse. Persuaded, the Dyer's wife strikes a deal with the Nurse and the Empress who agree to pretend they are her cousins come to serve Barak's household for three days during which she is to relinquish her shadow. The matrimonial bed instantly splits into two - to Barak's accepting bewilderment. Observing all these the Empress feels sympathy for the good-natured Barak - and humanity as a whole.

In a fit of hysteria, the Dyer's wife falsely confesses to infidelity (though nothing has happened between her and the youth), selling her shadow, and renouncing motherhood forever. Enraged, Barak's instinct is to kill her. But nature intervenes - a quake during which they are separated and swallowed up by the earth! Meanwhile, in the in-between world, the Emperor suspects (wrongly) that the Empress has betrayed him on her journey to the world of humans. He is compelled to kill her, but can't bring himself to commit the act. The Empress, now infused with compassion, refuses to take the shadow, knowing full well that it would condemn its original owner to certain death by Barak's own hand.
- © GCajipe / FanFaire

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Excerpt is from an award-winning recording of Die Frau ohne Schatten (Decca # 36243 /1992) with Sir Georg Solti conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Dyer's Wife - Hildegard Behrens; Emperor - Placido Domingo; Nurse - Reinhild Runkel; Empress - Julia Varady).

AWARDS: 1992 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording; 1992 Gramophone Award for Best Opera Recording; 1992 Shortlisted for Gramophone Award for Record of the Year; Awarded the Coveted Penguin Guide Rosette; The Most Expensive Record Ever Made when it was undertaken in 1989/90/91; Stella Award - Brimingham.

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