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Barak the dyer is as sympathetic as his wife is the reverse. Alan Titus would like children, but Janis Martin has so far refused them [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 9, 28:15-29:40]. Indeed, by the time Nurse has flattered her beauty, promised untold wealth and a delectable young man whom she once saw and fancied, the Wife has decided Barak can do without supper and that henceforth they will have separate single beds. Barak, on returning from peddling his wares at market, ruefully hopes the new arrangements will be temporary. To comfort and maybe slightly mock him, nightwatchmen from Wagner's Meistersinger pass the house and laud the joys of married life [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 15, 58:19-60:27].

Emperor and Empress (Peter Seiffert and Luana DeVol), Barak (Alan Titus) and his wife (Janis Martin), at the end of 'Die Frau ohne Schatten' in Nagoya. DVD screenshot © 1992 Bayerische Staatsoper
Emperor and Empress (Peter Seiffert and Luana DeVol), Barak (Alan Titus) and his wife (Janis Martin), at the end of 'Die Frau ohne Schatten' in Nagoya. DVD screenshot © 1992 Bayerische Staatsoper

Hofmannsthal had the strange notion that in this work he was writing his Magic Flute. Schikaneder has been taken sternly to task for apparent inconsistencies in Mozart's opera; but the broad lines of the plot could not be clearer. Not so with Hofmannsthal. The Empress has sent a message to the Emperor that she and Nurse are taking a three-day break in the falconer's cottage. The Falcon leads him on towards his goal [watch and listen -- DVD2 chapter 4, 14:05-15:45]. Initially there is no sign of the women, but their eventual presence causes only revulsion and jealousy, as he senses the stench of mankind upon them and all but strikes dead the Empress, whom first he met as a gazelle.

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Copyright © 24 June 2007 Robert Anderson, London UK

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