Written by Richard Strauss in the early twentieth century, Die Frau ohne Schatten was not popular among contemporary audiences because of its heavy symbolism. Today, however, it is widely enjoyed, and a new production at the Royal Opera House is about to launch on the 14th March - 2nd April.
Strauss drew his story from elements of several fairytales, including Arabian Nights, Goethe's Faust, and the works of Brothers Grimm. In English the title is 'The Woman With No Shadow', which is a metaphor about being unable to bear children.
The protagonist is an Empress who has a magical talisman that allows her to transform into any creature she wishes. The one thing she cannot do, however, is produce a child. On the back of the talisman is a prophecy that says unless she gets a shadow within three days she will be returned to the spirit world, and the Emperor turned to stone.
The opera has always proved hard to stage because of its elaborate sets, slow pace, and because of the demands on the actors, who must perform extended monologues. This four-hour production touches on the dark elements of the tale, as the Empress travels to the underworld in search of someone who will willingly sell their shadow to her. Tickets range between £37-£185, and includes two intervals.