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(Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten). Sop. Daughter of Keikobad, king of the spirit world, she is the shadowless lady of the opera's title. Since marrying the Emperor, she has remained part human, part spirit. Despite a loving relationship, she has borne no children. Her father sends his Messenger, to say that unless his daughter casts a shadow—this being the symbol of fertility—within three days, the Emperor will be turned to stone. The Empress and her Nurse journey to earth and visit the humble home of Barak the Dyer and his Wife—they, too, have had no children. But the Wife does have a shadow and the Nurse wants to buy it for the Empress. The Empress at first thinks this a splendid solution, but gradually becomes aware of the distress which it is causing Barak, a simple, dignified, human being, not to have any children. She understands that by taking his Wife's shadow, she will be the cause of disharmony between them. The Empress refuses to be the cause of such anguish, whatever the price. She falters momentarily when she sees her own husband turned to stone, then offers to die with him rather than take another woman's shadow. At this moment of her supreme sacrifice, the Empress is seen to have a shadow of her own. Her husband is restored to life and the voices of their unborn children are heard. Arias: Ist mein Liebster dahin? (‘Is my loved one there?’); Wehe, mein Mann (‘Ah, my husband’); Vater, bist du? (‘Father, is it you?’). Renowned Empresses include Viorica Ursuleac, Elisabeth Rethberg, Ingrid Bjoner, Leonie Rysanek, Gwyneth Jones (who once, while singing the role of the Dyer's Wife, also took over the vocal part of the Empress when the singer of that role lost her voice and could only mime the part!), Julia Varady, Anne Evans, and Cheryl Studer. Created (1919) by Maria Jeritza.

Subjects: Opera.

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