In Die Frau ohne Schatten, the conductor Thielemann finds a work fundamentally consonant with his conservative values—both in the late Romantic tonalities of Strauss’s music and in librettist Hofmannsthal’s sacral vision of marriage and child-rearing as the answer for social ills. One of the opera’s most haunting moments, at the conclusion of the first act, is when a trio of nightwatchmen is heard enjoining in ceremonious unison husbands and wives to love each other, entrusting them with the seed of new life. This tentative rite of renewal and regeneration is what the opera offered to the postwar world in 1919. Today, it has a somewhat different resonance for an Austrian republic shaken by scheming politicians involved in shady deals.
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