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Die Liebe der Danae (Deutsche Oper Berlin)

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  • Posted December 27, 2011

    Good case made for some lesser known Strauss!

    Richard Strauss did not write a lot of operas and, of those, the names most are familiar are "Der Rosenkavalier", "Elektra" and "Salome." Yet, according to writings and notes from the time, he personally considered "Der Liebe der Danae" (The Love of Danae) his greatest. In fact, he had died but three years before its premiere in 1952. Some reasons "Danae" has not enjoyed a greater production life to date may be its length (at just under three hours - although hardly the behemoth of operas) and it may be that the use of a fairly familiar Greek mythological tale of greed - as it existed in a bankrupt and corrupt state - interfering with true love and pure ethics was a bit much for post war Germany (and beyond). Regardless, this new production from the Berlin Opera is fun to watch and makes a compelling case for the revival of this lesser known masterpiece. Most are somewhat familiar with the basic tale of the God of gods, Jupiter, using his God of prosperity, Midas, to help Jupiter get the woman of his desire, Danae. Only when Jupiter discovers that Danae has not only discovered Jupiter's deceptions but has fallen in love with Midas does Jupiter put the famous curse on Midas whereby everything the latter touches turns to solid gold is - therefore - unattainable. In the end, Jupiter tests Danae's true devotions and Midas' allegiance by allowing Danae to choose and - in so doing - Midas and Dane become lovers, yet powerless and Jupiter becomes saddened and awakened to the reality that neither power nor gold will influence true love. The performances here are great. Manuela Uhl as Danae, Mark Delavan as Jupiter and Matthias Klink as Midas are all gifted singers as well as actors. The secondary roles, in a relatively small cast, are also quite good; most notably that of Thomas Blondelle as Mercury. The stage design and direction by Kirsten Harms is also arresting. Huge sections of palace wall provide a minimalist backdrop and - later - serve as the wreckage to the palace. Large paintings of unclear reference are toted off during the initial cast off of Pollux's wealth (whom Jupiter has gypped) as is his grand piano. The piano, in fact, makes for the single most strange stage prop throughout. Take from Pollux during the 'liquidation' of the initial scene (by being hoisted from its normal position to then hang suspended from the stage upside down, lid ajar) it then serves as some sort of symbol for - perhaps - the fleeting attraction of material wealth. Art Haus does its usual fine job of artistic packaging, superb video quality and very helpful booklet information. It is also a welcome benefit to have an additional 22' of film interviews with Kirsten Harms and dramaturge Andreas K.W. Meyer. I recommend this to anyone wanting to explore wonderful yet lesser known opera in a familiar tonal world but with contemporary and visually stunning vision.

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