Strauss and Hofmannsthal regarded Die Frau ohne Schatten (‘The Woman without a Shadow’) as the pinnacle of their collaborative efforts. A counterpart to Mozart and Shikaneder’s Die Zauberflöte, it depicts reality in the form of a fable. The work is an ode to mankind’s survival instinct and a plea for the lives of unborn children. The central character is the Empress, who descends to earth with a mission: she must cast a shadow (i.e. become pregnant) within three days, otherwise she will have to return to the supernatural realm whence she came, and the Emperor will be turned to stone. Her nurse endeavours to convince the wife of the dyer Barak to sell her shadow, but the Empress is not prepared to destroy the lives of an innocent couple in order to salvage her own happiness. She embodies the Mozartian ideal of Eros and Humanitas.
This video appears on boosey.com with the kind permission of De Nederlandse Opera.