“Die Frau ohne Schatten’’ or “The Woman without a Shadow” is a difficult opera to assess. It doesn’t play that often, even hardened opera lovers find it a great challenge and the composer himself battled with the confusing libretto. However, in the hands of an expert director, this epic opera can be a sensation, a truly stunning magical work of art: complicated, undoubtedly mystical and otherworldly but unmissable.
It is a brave director who takes on Strauss’s powerful, mysterious opera weighing in at four-and-a-half hours with a puzzling, wandering plot-line. Highly experienced director János Szikora is more than up to the challenge. He is of course aided by a star-studded cast with lead performers István Kovácsházi as the Emperor and Eszter Sümegi as the Empress, along with other names including Ildikó Komlósi, Szilvia Rálik and Zsolt Haja.
Komlósi played the role of the Empress’s Nurse to high critical acclaim at New York’s Metropolitan Opera so we should expect an outstanding performance from her.
Without delving too deeply into the storyline, the supernatural Empress needs to find her shadow or be turned to stone by the mortal Emperor and return to the realm of the mystical world she came from. It is a battle; find someone to sell their own shadow in return for great riches.
The orchestral score is intense but hypnotising, full of sweeping grandeur, and conductor Péter Halász has a great challenge to pace his orchestra through the epic music of this opera.
Set designer Balázs Horesnyi has the task of turning the stage into a magical place, an almost fairytale world; a production such as this demands lavish sets and spectacular lighting for it not to feel static and slow.
The opera can be draining to watch; weighty, complex and meandering, but then so can Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”, which leaves you feeling as though you have worked for the reward but is no less divine because of this. Leaving the auditorium there is a sense of being elevated to the sublime. “Die Frau ohne Schatten” performed by such an impressive cast should do the same, providing a mesmerising evening.
From Wednesday April 27
until Sunday May 8
Tickets and information: