Sung in English with projected titles in English.
This production of The Silent Woman is made possible through the generous support of:
- Jerry Clack
The Silent Woman is presented by arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes Inc, publisher and copyright owner.
Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission.
|Assistant Conductor||Caleb Glickman|
|Reduced Orchestration||Rob Frankenberry, Evan Neely|
|Scenic Design||Danila Korogodsky|
|Costume Design||Cynthia Albert|
|Lighting Design||Madeleine Steineck|
|Hair and Makeup Design||Samantha LaScala|
|Assistant Director||Daniel Brylow|
|Stage Manager||Kathleen Stakenas|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Emily Gallagher|
|Sir Morosus||Jeremy Galyon|
|Widow Zimmerlein||Fiona McArdle|
|Barber Schneidebart||Dimitrie Lazich|
|Henry Morosus||William Andrews|
|J. Patrick McGill|
Sir John Morosus lives in retirement. Deafened by the explosion of a ship while he was in service, he has become cantankerous, short tempered, and intolerant of any noise. Moreover, he has cut himself off from society to assure him peace of mind. During his morning shave his barber suggests that he marry a quiet young woman. The barber assures him that he knows a dozen "quiet doves" who would marry such an honorable man as he. Morosus' lost nephew Henry appears. Morosus, forgetting marriage for the moment, declares Henry his son and heir. Then he discovers that Henry and his wife Aminta manage an opera troupe. Distrusting actors, he disinherits Henry and sends the troupe flying. He then instructs the barber to find him a "dove."The barber has an inspiration—a sham marriage with one of his "quiet doves" who, as soon as the wedding ceremony is performed, will turn out to be an insufferable termagant. Her conduct will lead to an equally hasty sham divorce. As the "doves" will be members of Henry's troupe, this will prove to Morosus what an excellent group of actors is under his direction. The act ends with a lively and glorious celebration of the plan.
The barber introduces Morosus to three of his "doves": a "a simple girl", a "noble lady" and lastly Aminta who acts as the shy Timidia. Not surprisingly, she is the one Morosus chooses.The barber procures a notary and two officials (from the troupe) to perform the marriage. Aminta is touched by the affection Morosus shows for her and regrets Henry's attempt to chicane him. Nonetheless, Aminta reverting to the role she has been assigned, Aminta wreaks havoc and Henry arrives "to save the day" and puts Timidia in her place. He reassures Morosus and sends the old sea captain off to bed. Henry and Aminta sing of their love.
The barber introduces a "Lord Chief Justice" and two "lawyer," fake witnesses testiying to Timidia's lurid past. Henry admits to carnal relations with her. Morosus is so close to a breakdown that Henry calls off the charade and reveals the purpose of the plot—to regain Morosus' trust by showing off his actors' talents. Amintaasks the captain's pardon, and Morosus turns to laughter when he realizes the humor of the situation—that he has been so successfully and amusingly duped. He blesses Henry and Aminta's marriage and proclaims Henry once again his heir. Morosus reflecting on the insights he has gained. First, with a wink toward Strauss, "How beautiful music is, especially when it's finished," and then on the delightsof bachelorhood, "A rare delight it is to find a silent beautiful girl, but it is more delightful when she belongs to another man."
It is ironic that Richard Strauss wrote, at the most trying time of his life, his only true Italianate comic opera. In July of 1929 Hugo von Hofmannsthal suffered a heart attack and died. Hofmannsthal had written the text for the majority of Strauss' operas. Strauss was despondent, believing that he would never find another librettist who could serve his needs as Hofmannsthal had. In Autumn1931 Anton Kippenberg, a music lover and director of the Insel book publishing firm, dropped by on his way to a meeting with Stephan Zweig, one of Austria's best known writers. The likelihood of Zweig's interest in preparing a libretto for Strauss entered the conversation—a conversation which in a matter of weeks began to bear fruit. Zweig was both a friend of Hofmannsthal and an ardent admirerof Strauss' music. Strauss' first encounter with Zweig was a most cordial one. According to Zweig, they began almost immediately discussing the feasibility of adopting Ben Jonson's satire Epicoene for the operatic stage. Zweig had recently made a translation of Jonson's Volpone, and had become acquainted with this lesser known work.
Strauss suggested that Zweig work out the details of such a libretto. Strauss would complete the orchestration of Arabella—the text of which Hofmannsthal had prepared for him just before his death. Zweig did so, but his adaptation veeredin a number of ways from Ben Jonson's play. Sir Morosus is portrayed as a much more sympathetic character than Ben Jonson's acerbic "hero." Moreover, the "silent woman" in Zweig's treatment—when she is not playing her role as a termagant—is portrayed as human and loving.
Strauss received the first act of The Silent Woman on 14 October 1932, and within two years (on 20 October 1934) had completed the entire score. Delighted with Zweig's libretto, he confided to Zweig that he could find nothing wrong with it, citing in his letter one of his most famous songs, "Ich trage meine Minne," which begins "That I have truly found you is my delight every day." Later, indefatigable pragmatist that he was, Strauss appears to have reviewed his score and is reported to have commented that it contained more notes than anything else he had ever written. It is an astounding score, filled with Strauss' old tricks. Can you in the audience identify his references to well know themes by Mozart, Weber, Wagner, Verdi, Gounod, and Monteverdi that are integrated in the score?
One wonders whether the composer and author were so engaged in their project that they were oblivious to the fatal consequences of the 1933 German elections? The Nazis came to power in April of that year. Zweig was Jewish but seems to have had no realization of what was afoot. Shortly after Hitler's rise to power German theaters were forbidden to perform works by non-Aryans. Without warning The Silent Woman became a target of the new government. It was only thanks to Strauss' stubborn insistence and diplomatic skill that he was able to engineer its performance at the Dresden Staatsoper—and that only after an unsubstantiated interview with Hitler himself. Strauss, as President of the Board of Music for the Reich, also insisted that Zweig be listed on the program—but that was to no avail.
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.