Die Frau ohne Schatten - Grosses Festspielhaus Salzburg, 29 July 2011 (first night)
It now seems incredible that Strauss's musically richest and most colourful opera was dismissed as 'boring' by its first critics. Christian Thielemann coaxed the Vienna Philharmonic into a display of such aural opulence on its Friday premiere that it was easy to overlook the deficiencies of Christof Loy's meagre production.
Die Frau ohne Schatten opens at the Salzburg Festival tomorrow night in a new production by Christof Loy (photos below). It will be conducted - without any cuts - by Christian Thielemann, who says it is his favourite Strauss opera.
Loy's staging was inspired by the circumstances of the opera's first recording in 1955. Its conductor, Karl Böhm, was so driven to set the work down that he persuaded his ill-assorted ensemble to work without fees, in the midst of winter, in unheated rooms. And so Loy's production begins with a young singer hired to record the part of the Empress. According to Maestro Thielemann, not even the cast are quite sure what it all means.
A local Salzburg boutique meanwhile has out-regied the Regisseur with a puzzling complementary display of Trachtenmode and hand-painted wellies.