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Strauss's Die Liebe der Danae returns to Salzburg

(June 2016)

StraussDanaeNews.jpg A new production of Die Liebe der Danae at the Salzburg Festival sees Richard Strauss's valedictory opera returning to the same stage as its posthumous premiere.

Richard Strauss’s penultimate opera, Die Liebe der Danae, receives a new production in Salzburg this summer, adding the latest chapter to the festival’s special relationship with this valedictory work that summed up the composer’s operatic career. In 1921 Hofmannsthal had proposed the fusion of two Greek myths to Strauss, the shower of gold which enabled Jupiter to seduce Danae, and King Midas whose touch turned everything to gold. However, it was not until the late 1930s that Strauss returned to the project with the librettist Joseph Gregor, describing the opera as "my final embrace of Greek culture and the conclusive union of German music with the Greek soul".

Die Liebe der Danae came to light in the darkest days of the Second World War, when the apparatus for a new work to enter the international repertoire was effectively dismantled. Strauss completed the work in 1940 and only heard the opera in a private dress rehearsal in Salzburg in 1944, yet he knew the dramatic and musical strength of his creation, noting in a letter to his biographer how Act III contained "some of the best stuff I have ever written" and how his "orchestral colours once again glowed in ancient splendour".

The official stage premiere did not take place at the Salzburg Festival until 1952, three years after Strauss’s death, and the opera did not return to the festival for half a century until 2002. Since then the work has enjoyed renewed interest and topicality, with its critique of material greed, male power and financial collapse and its tale of riches to rags, transfigured by human love. Notable productions have included the Semperoper in Dresden in 2005 by Günter Krämer with Anne Schwanewilms in the title role, Deutsche Oper Berlin by Kirsten Harms in 2011 and revived this season, which saw the opera released on DVD for the first time, Bard SummerScape’s in the same year prompting a North American reappraisal of the work, and concert performances in Garmisch and at Frankfurt Opera to celebrate the composer’s 150th anniversary in 2014.

The new Salzburg Festival production, opening on 31 July, is conducted by Franz Welser-Möst and staged by Alvis Hermanis, with a cast including Krassimira Stoyanova as Danae and Tomasz Konieczny as Jupiter and the Vienna Philharmonic in the pit. Welser-Möst has been drawn to the later Strauss operas in recent years, including Daphne which he conducted last year in Cleveland and New York, and in a Salzburg Festival interview he describes his fascination with Die Liebe der Danae:

"Die Liebe der Danae is a late work by Strauss in which he put on paper, one last time, much of what he believed in. His love and admiration for Greek antiquity, his faith in Enlightenment and the great classical masterworks it produced, and not least his personal musical idiom, which is heard here in all its humour and lightness, but also its melancholia. It is a work created with the wisdom of an old man, and one must love it.

"As a composer, Strauss withdrew during the political upheaval and catastrophes into an inner world which had nothing to do with everything happening on the outside. His famous words to the Vienna Philharmonic after the dress rehearsal for the world premiere in the summer of 1944 – the world premiere which could then only take place years after his death – were, "Gentlemen, perhaps we shall meet again in a better world!" This is deeply revealing about his profound resignation and the escape he sought from the world."

> Visit the Salzburg Festival website 

>  Further information on Work: Die Liebe der Danae

Photo: Booseyprints

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