The Empress is half-mortal and does not cast a shadow. If she does not acquire a shadow in three days, she will be returned to the spirit world and the Emperor turned to stone. To what lengths will she go to avoid such a fate?
Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow) was conceived by Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal with the model of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in mind: a fairytale with a strong moral dimension. Although the narrative was largely Hofmannsthal’s invention, he drew on a diverse range of sources, from The Arabian Nights to Grimm’s fairytales. The opera was completed during World War I and received its premiere in 1919.
Die Frau ohne Schatten is one of Strauss’s mightiest and most demanding scores. It draws on the resources of a huge orchestra that includes extensive percussion, an organ, thunder and wind machines, as well as a glass harmonica. Musical highlights include a tender, yearning duet for the dyer Barak and his wife, an impassioned solo scene for the Empress as she struggles to maintain her integrity rather than steal a mortal woman’s shadow, and the opera’s ecstatic finale. Claus Guth’s striking production emphasizes the dark undercurrents of Strauss’s opera and powerfully evokes the Empress’s plight as a woman trapped between two repressive worlds.
News and features
18 July 2014
While the Opera and Ballet Companies are away, work goes into preparing the scores for the new Season.
13 June 2014
Richard Strauss was renowned for writing for the soprano voice. Here's a brief guide to some of our favourite roles.
27 March 2014
Seven Royal Opera productions will be broadcast including Die Frau ohne Schatten, Faust and Manon Lescaut.
24 March 2014
Semyon Bychkov conducts Richard Strauss’s mighty opera, starring Johan Botha, Emily Magee and Johan Reuter.
20 March 2014
How changing attitudes to Freud have shaped the set designs of The Royal Opera's production.
20 March 2014
Picador will publish this poem in a collection to be released in 2015.