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Daphne (opera)

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Opera by Richard Strauss
The composer in 1922 (Photographer Schmutzer)
LibrettistJoseph Gregor
2 October 1938 (1938-10-02)
Semperoper, Dresden

Daphne, Op. 82, is an opera in one act by Richard Strauss, subtitled "Bucolic Tragedy in One Act". The German libretto was by Joseph Gregor. The opera is based loosely on the mythological figure Daphne from Ovid's Metamorphoses and includes elements taken from The Bacchae by Euripides.

Performance history[edit]

The Semperoper

The first performance of the opera took place at the Semperoper in Dresden on 15 October 1938. It was originally intended as a double bill with Strauss' Friedenstag, but as the scale of Daphne grew, that idea was abandoned.[1] The conductor of the first performance was Karl Böhm, to whom the opera was dedicated. The United States premiere of the opera was performed on October 10, 1960 in a concert version at Town Hall in Manhattan with Gloria Davy in the title role, Florence Kopleff as Gaea, Robert Nagy as Leukippos, Jon Crain as Apollo, Lawrence Davidson as Peneios, and The Little Orchestra Society under conductor Thomas Scherman.[2]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 15 October 1938
(Conductor: Karl Böhm)
Peneios, a fisherman bass Sven Nilsson
Gaea, his wife contralto Helene Jung
Daphne, their daughter soprano Margarete Teschemacher
Leukippos, a shepherd tenor Martin Kremer [de]
Apollo tenor Torsten Ralf
Four shepherds baritone, tenor, basses Arno Schellenberg, Heinrich Tessmer, Hans Löbel, Erich Händel
Two maids sopranos Angela Kolniak, Marta Rohs


The chaste girl Daphne sings a hymn of praise to nature. She loves the sunlight as trees and flowers do, but she has no interest in human romance. She cannot return the love of her childhood friend Leukippos, and she refuses to put on the ceremonial clothes for the coming festival of Dionysos, leaving Leukippos with the dress she has rejected.

Daphne's father Peneios tells his friends he is certain that the gods will soon return among men. He advises preparing a feast to welcome Apollo. Just then a mysterious herdsman appears. Peneios sends for Daphne to care for the visitor.

The strange herdsman tells Daphne that he has watched her from his chariot, and repeats to her phrases from the hymn to nature she sang earlier. He promises her that she need never be parted from the sun, and she accepts his embrace. But when he begins to speak of love she becomes fearful and runs out.

At the festival of Dionysos, Leukippos is among the women wearing Daphne's dress, and he invites her to dance. Believing him to be a woman she agrees, but the strange herdsman stops the dance with a thunderclap and says she has been deceived. Daphne answers that both Leukippos and the stranger are in disguise, and the stranger reveals himself as the sun-god Apollo. Daphne refuses both her suitors, and Apollo pierces Leukippos with an arrow.

Daphne mourns with the dying Leukippos. Apollo is filled with regret. He asks Zeus to give Daphne new life in the form of one of the trees she loves. Daphne is transformed, and she rejoices in her union with nature. This transformation scene, the metamorphosis, is opulently silvery in the string section.


Year Cast:
Opera House and Orchestra
1944 Maria Reining,
Anton Dermota,
Karl Friedrich,
Herbert Alsen,
Melanie Frutschnigg
Karl Böhm,
Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna) Wiener Staatsoperchor and Wiener Philharmoniker, live
CD: Walhall Eternity Seriess
Cat: WLCD 0147
1948 Rose Bampton,
Anton Dermota,
Set Svanholm,
Ludwig Weber,
Lydia Kindermann
Erich Kleiber,
Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires) Orchestra and Chorus, live
CD: Preiser Records
Cat: 90371
1950 Anneliese Kupper,
Hans Hopf,
Georg Hann,
Lorenz Fehenberger,
Res Fischer
Eugen Jochum,
Bavarian State Orchestra and chorus
CD: Preiser Records
Cat: 90487
1964 Hilde Güden,
Fritz Wunderlich,
James King,
Paul Schöffler
Vera Little
Karl Böhm,
Vienna Symphony and Vienna State Opera chorus
CD (with cuts): Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 445 322-2
1982 Lucia Popp,
Peter Schreier,
Reiner Goldberg,
Kurt Moll,
Ortrun Wenkel
Bernard Haitink,
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
CD (First uncut complete recording): EMI Classics
Cat: CDS 7 49309-2 [4]
2005 Renée Fleming,
Michael Schade,
Johan Botha,
Kwangchul Youn,
Anna Larsson
Semyon Bychkov,
WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne
(Recorded at the Kölner Philharmonie, 28 February - 12 March 2005)
CD: Decca
Cat: 475 6926
2005 June Anderson,
Robert Sacca,
Scott Mac Allister,
Daniel Lewis Williams,
Birgit Remmert
Stefan Anton Reck,
Teatro La Fenice orchestra and chorus
(Audio and video recordings made at performances in the Teatro La Fenice, June)
CD: Dynamic
Cat: 499/1
Video DVD: Dynamic



  1. ^ Christopher J. Thomas, "Daphne. Richard Strauss". The Opera Quarterly, 2, 146–148 (1984).
  2. ^ Harold C. Schonberg (October 11, 1960). "Music: Strauss Opera: Daphne' Has Debut at Town Hall" (PDF). The New York Times. p. 56.
  3. ^ Recordings of Daphne on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
  4. ^ Kenneth Birkin, Review of Haitink recording of Richard Strauss: Daphne. Tempo (New Ser.), 150, pp. 50-51 (September 1984).


External links[edit]