Friday July 12, 2019
$15 – $65
Winchester Thurston School
555 Morewood Ave
Pittsburgh PA 15213
(Entrance on Ellsworth Avenue)
A Strauss rarity, in concert.
The story is a familiar one. Jupiter to escape the jealous eyes of Juno and to woo a variety of young ladies–on this occasion the wives of Pollux’s nephews–came to earth in preposterous disguises—to Europa as a bull, to Leda as a swan, to Semele as an eagle and to Alcemena in the form of her husband.
In this operatic treatment he appears to Danaê in a shower of gold but discovers that she is more interested in the gold than in him. In a countermove he invests an impoverished muleteer, Midas, with the power to convert anything into gold at a single touch, the provision being that he, Jupiter, may change place with Midas at will and court Danaë as a human.
In the end the god will learn humility and Danaë the glory of love.
Act 1 – The Palace of Pollux
Pollux the bankrupt king of Eos, dreams of finding a wealthy suitor for his daughter Danaë. Appropriately, Danaë has dreamed of a shower of gold falling into her lap.
Pollux’s nephews and their wives have been abroad looking for such a suitor and return with rich gifts for Danaë from Midas, the world’s wealthiest man. The gifts include a branch which Midas has turned into gold simply by touching it.
Although Midas’ arrival is expected at any moment, in his stead appears his messenger, Chrysophorus (Midas in disguise) bringing Danaë a golden robe. Contrary to expectation, Danaê is immediately smitten by him, and it becomes evident that he is attracted to her as well.
Shortly afterward Jupiter, disguised as Midas, appears. In the midst of the reception Danaë realizes that the supposed Midas is the originator of her golden dream and in true operatic fashion faints.
The wives of Pollux’ nephews, since they were all Jupiter’s “lovers,” see through his disguise as Midas. They are jealous, since Jupiter makes it clear that he has deeper feelings for Danaë than for them. He on the other hand is displeased by the impression that Midas (as Chrysophorus) has made on Danaë. When Danaë enters the bridal chamber, Jupiter disappears–first reminding Midas of their pact and threatening to turn him back into a lowly muleteer if he disregards their agreement.
Midas dons Jupiter’s robes and, when finally he and Danaë are alone, admits his love for her as she admits her feelings for him. In a fit of passion Midas kisses Danaë and in an instant she is turned to gold.
In anger Jupiter appears and demands that Danaë choose between him and Midas. When Danaë chooses Midas, the humble muleteer, Jupiter damns them and condemns them to everlasting life.
Danaë and Midas awaken from a deep sleep. Midas has been returned to his original form as a humble muleteer. He reveals to Danaë his pact with Jupiter. Elsewhere, Mercury visits Jupiter and tell him that the gods are highly amused by his escapade.
Jupiter’s four former mistresses appear and fawn over him in the hope of winning him back, but Mercury convinces Jupiter that he should continue his pursuit of Danaë.
However, Danaë, though sunk in poverty, has now experienced true love. When Jupiter visits her, she recognizes him and thanks him for revealing to her where true happiness lies. Then, in order to show him appreciation, she gives him her last gold ornament, a hair clasp.
Jupiter at last realizes that as a god he cannot experience the intangible gift of human love. He says farewell to her with a blessing and in so doing says farewell to mankind forever, while Danaë awaits impatiently for Midas’ return home
ABOUT THE OPERA
Sung in German with projected titles in English.
This production of The Love of Danaë is made possible through the generous support of Jerry Clack.
Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.
Faced with the flight of Stefan Zweig from the threat of the newly established Nazi régime in Germany–Zweig had been the librettist of Strauss’ scintillating comedy, The Silent Woman–Strauss found himself in a quandary, deprived of a man he considered a brilliant, imaginative and excellent librettist.
Zweig suggested a number of new librettists to Strauss, including his close friend, Joseph Gregor, a leading theater scholar, but Strauss at first was reluctant to make a commitment. He admired Gregor’s scholarship but questioned his ability as a librettist. At the same time, Strauss realized the importance of Gregor’s friendship with Zweig and realized that through Gregor —even though at long distance—he might continue his contact with Zweig with whom he had some time before discussed a number of ideas for new operas, including even the radiant Capriccio. Later, he expressed his willingness to give Gregor a try and so with frequent adjustments of a scenario written in 1920 by Hugo von Hofmannsthal The Love of Danaë saw the light of day. Strauss completed orchestration of the opera in June of 1940. By this time Germany was at war. Strauss, quite aware of the difficulty of bringing Danaë to the stage, insisted that its premiere be postponed until two years after the conclusion of hostilities. Already in his late seventies he was convinced that Danaë would be catalogued as opus postumum, that is, a work unproduced at his death and so given no opus number by him.
However, that was not the case. In 1941, despite the perils of all-out war, the distinguished conductor Clemens Krauss was appointed artistic director of the Salzburg Festival. He immediately petitioned the composer to allow production of Danaë at the festival. Strauss remained reluctant until the ever insistent Krauss persuaded him to release Danaë for the 1944 Festival as part of a celebration of Strauss’ eightieth birthday. Strauss finally relented and gave his permission. Opus postumum became opus 83.
Among many frustrations in mounting the performance was the fact that all 1,500 copies of Danaë’s printed score were destroyed early in 1943 in an Allied air raid on Stuttgart. Still, this did not seriously hinder preparations for the opera since the plates survived.
Danaë was scheduled to open the Festival on 6 August 1944. Unforeseen was the failed attempt on Hitler’s life engineered by his generals on July 20 after which Goebbels suspended all festivals in Germany. Only a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic and one performance of Danaë, the dress rehearsal, were authorized and that on August 15.
The delay was due in part to the advance of the Allied Second Front which hampered delivery of scenic properties and had complicated the gathering of the musical ensemble. Public attendance for the opera was restricted to the final dress rehearsal. Strauss was deeply moved during rehearsals stating at one point that the interlude between the second and third scenes of Act 3 was the best thing he had ever written. As reported, his frame of mind was communicated to everyone. At one point, raising his hands in gratitude to those present and speaking with difficulty stated that he would soon be on his way “there” and that he hoped everyone would forgive him if he should take Danaë along with him.
In spite of several attempts to mount the opera immediately after the war, Danaë was not given its world première until 1952 at the site where it properly belonged–the Salzburg Festival.
For those interested in pursuing the matter, a recording of the 1952 performance is still available. Annalies Kupper sings Danaë, Paul Schöffler Jupiter, while the conductor is once again Clemens Krauss.
Meet the Composer
[born Munich, 11 June 1864; died Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 8 Sept 1949]
Richard Strauss was born on 11 June 1864 in Munich, the son of Franz Strauss, who was the principal horn player at the Court Opera in Munich. In his youth, he received a thorough musical education from his father. He wrote his first composition at the age of six, and continued to write music almost until his death.
During his boyhood Strauss attended orchestra rehearsals of the Munich Court Orchestra (now the Bavarian State Orchestra), and he also received private instruction in music theory and orchestration from an assistant conductor there. In 1872 he started receiving violin instruction at the Royal School of Music from Benno Walter, his father’s cousin. In 1874 Strauss heard his first Wagner operas, Lohengrin and Tannhäuser. The influence of Wagner’s music on Strauss’s style was to be profound, but at first his musically conservative father forbade him to study it. Indeed, in the Strauss household, the music of Richard Wagner was viewed with deep suspicion, and it was not until the age of 16 that Strauss was able to obtain a score of Tristan und Isolde. In later life, Strauss said that he deeply regretted the conservative hostility to Wagner’s progressive works. Nevertheless, Strauss’s father undoubtedly had a crucial influence on his son’s developing taste, not least in Strauss’s abiding love for the horn, the instrument his father played.
In early 1882 in Vienna Strauss gave the first performance of his Violin Concerto in D minor, playing a piano reduction of the orchestral part himself, with his teacher and “cousin” Benno Walter as soloist. The same year he entered Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where he studied Philosophy and Art History, but not music. He left a year later to go to Berlin, where he studied briefly before securing a post as assistant conductor to Hans von Bülow, who had been enormously impressed by the young composer’s Serenade for wind instruments, composed when he was only 16 years of age. Strauss learned the art of conducting by observing Bülow in rehearsal. Bülow was very fond of the young man and decided that Strauss should be his successor as conductor of the Meiningen orchestra when Bülow resigned in 1885. Strauss’s compositions at this time were indebted to the style of Robert Schumann or Felix Mendelssohn, true to his father’s teachings.
Strauss married soprano Pauline de Ahna on 10 September 1894. She was famous for being irascible, garrulous, eccentric and outspoken, but the marriage, to all appearances, was essentially happy and she was a great source of inspiration to him. Throughout his life, from his earliest songs to the final Four Last Songs of 1948, he preferred the soprano voice to all others, and all his operas contain important soprano roles.
Around the end of the 19th century, Strauss turned his attention to opera. His first two attempts in the genre, Guntram (1894) and Feuersnot (1901), were controversial works: Guntram was the first significant critical failure of Strauss’s career, and Feuersnot was considered obscene by some critics.
In 1905, Strauss produced Salome, a somewhat dissonant modernist opera based on the play by Oscar Wilde, which produced a passionate reaction from audiences. The premiere was a major success, with the artists taking more than 38 curtain calls. Many later performances of the opera were also successful, not only with the general public but also with Strauss’s peers: Maurice Ravel said that Salome was “stupendous”, and Mahler described it as “a live volcano, a subterranean fire”. Strauss reputedly financed his magnificent house in Garmisch-Partenkirchen completely from the revenues generated by the opera.
Strauss’s next opera was Elektra (1909), which took his use of dissonance even further. Elektra was also the first opera in which Strauss collaborated with the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The two subsequently worked together on numerous occasions. For his later works with Hofmannsthal, Strauss moderated his harmonic language: he used a more lush, melodic late-Romantic style based on Wagnerian chromatic harmonies that he had used in his tone poems, with much less dissonance, and exhibiting immense virtuosity in orchestral writing and tone color. This resulted in operas such as Der Rosenkavalier (1911) having great public success. Strauss continued to produce operas at regular intervals until 1942. With Hofmannsthal he created Ariadne auf Naxos (1912), Die Frau ohne Schatten (1918), Die ägyptische Helena (1927), and Arabella (1932). For Intermezzo (1923) Strauss provided his own libretto. Die schweigsame Frau (1934), was composed with Stefan Zweig as librettist; Friedenstag (1935–6) and Daphne (1937) both had a libretto by Joseph Gregor and Stefan Zweig; and Die Liebe der Danae (1940) was with Joseph Gregor. Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio (1942), had a libretto by Clemens Krauss, although the genesis for it came from Stefan Zweig and Joseph Gregor.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
[born Vienna, 1 Feb 1874; died Vienna, 15 July 1929]
Hugo von Hofmannsthal was born into a cultured Viennese family. As a young man, he created a steady stream of poetry and other literary works that gained him a wide reputation as a writer of great skill with a mastery of form.
He suffered a dry spell in his twenties after which he arrived at the ideal that a drama which presents life as it should be would inspire a cure for the moral ills of the populace in the new industrial society. Some of his plays, such as Jedermann and Der Turm emphasize this philosophy.
In 1900, Hofmannsthal approached Richard Strauss with an idea for a ballet, Der Triumph der Zeit. It was not until six years later, however, that Strauss and Hofmannsthal would work together beginning with an adaptation of Sophocles’ Electra. Hofmannsthal would collaborate with Strauss for 23 years on six operas. At the time of his death, Strauss said of Hofmannsthal, “No musician ever found such a helper and supporter. No one will ever replace him for me or the world of music.” He achieved a level of wit, poetry, insight and form which few opera libretti before or since can claim.
—Created from Lyric Opera of Chicago materials and author Philip Seward