19 May 2014 at 1.20pm | Comment on this article
Strauss returned to Ovid after Hofmannsthal’s death for his 1938 opera Daphne, written with the librettist Josef Gregor. Based on an episode from Metamorphoses – as well drawing on The Bacchae by Euripides – it tells the story of Apollo’s lust for Daphne. Gregor reimagined Ovid’s nymph as a simple girl in love with nature. In his remorse over killing Leukippos, Daphne’s childhood friend, Apollo asks Zeus to change Daphne into the kind of tree she dearly loves. This theme of transformation fascinated Strauss and it occurs in several of his works, not least the searing wartime threnody Metamorphosen, first performed in Zürich in 1946. Here, appalled by what had unfolded during the Nazis’ ‘12-year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture’, Strauss significantly reverses the classical idea that man can ultimately become divine.
2014 sees the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss’s birth. The composer is celebrated at the ROH with stagings of Die Frau ohne Schatten (which ran until 2 April 2014) and Ariadne auf Naxos (25 June-13 July). Tickets for Ariadne auf Naxos are still available.