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Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal (G,E)

Scoring

Major roles: dramS,dramcolS,heldT,heldBar
small roles: 4S,M,2A,T; chorus
4(III,IV=picc).2.corA.3.bcl.3(III=dbn)-6.6.3.1-timp.perc:BD/tam-t/
SD/cyms/glsp-cel-2harp-org-strings(16.14.10.10.8)
Stage band: 0.6.6.0-4.2.4.0-timp.perc:4tgl/2tamb/windmachine

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
6/6/1928
Sächsisches Staatstheater Opernhaus, Dresden
Conductor: Fritz Busch
Company: Dresden State Opera

Roles

HELEN, wife of Menelaus Soprano
MENELAUS Tenor
HERMIONE, their child Soprano
AITHRA, the daughter of an Egyptian King, a sorceress Soprano
ALTAIR Baritone
DA-UD, his son Tenor
2 SERVANTS OPF AITHRA Soprano, Mezzo Soprano
THREE ELVES 2 Sopranos, Contralto
THE OMNISCIENT SEA-SHELL Contralto
Elves, male and female warriors, slaves, eunuchs chorus
Time and Place

Egypt, 1193-1184 B.C. (after the Trojan War)

Synopsis

In the Egyptian palace of the sorceress Aithra, the omniscient mussel (an all-knowing sea-shell left by Aithra's lover Poseidon) sights a ship bound for Sparta. On board is the raging Menelaus who is determined to kill Helen for her faithlessness and for causing the death of so many Greeks. A storm is conjured up and the couple are shipwrecked near the palace. Aithra, with the help of some magical lotus juice, convinces Menelaus that Helen of Troy was an illusion of the gods, that the real Helen was faithful, and that they should be sent on a second honeymoon to an oasis beneath the Atlas Mountains. Helen and Menelaus are entertained by a desert sheik and his son, but the foursome find themselves trapped in a symbolic re-enactment of events in Troy that led to the death of Paris. As a result of this tragic psychotherapy Helen realises that thanks to Aithra's potion she will always be living as an impostor. She and Menelaus take a draught of remembrance and embrace the reality of their former love, sealed by the appearance of her daughter Hermione.

Moods

Dramatic, Romantic

Subjects

Literary, Magic/Mystery, Mythology, Relationships

Recommended Recording
cd_cover

Gwyneth Jones/Jess Thomas/Edita Gruberova/Mimi Coertse/Peter Glossop/Peter Schreier/Margaritha Lilowa/Vienna State Opera Chorsu and Orchestra/Josef Krips
RCA 74321-69429-2
Click here to purchase this CD set from Amazon

Gwyneth Jones/Matti Kastu/Dinah Bryant/Barbara Hendricks/Willard White/Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Antál Dorati
Decca 430 381-2
Click here to purchase this CD set from Amazon




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