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Richard Strauss Die Liebe der Danae

Cheerful mythology in three acts, Op. 83 by Richard Strauss (1864–1949)
Text by Joseph Gregor (1888–1960) based on a draft by Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874–1929)

New production

With German and English surtitles

Duration of the opera approx. 4 hours.

Print programme (PDF)


Franz Welser-Möst, Conductor
Alvis Hermanis, Director and Sets
Juozas Statkevičius, Costumes
Gleb Filshtinsky, Lighting
Ineta Sipunova, Video
Alla Sigalova, Choreography
Gudrun Hartmann, Associate Director
Uta Gruber-Ballehr, Associate Set Designer
Ronny Dietrich, Dramaturgy
Ernst Raffelsberger, Chorus Master


A ‘satirically mythological opera’ was what Richard Strauss had in mind when he turned to Hugo von Hofmannsthal for a new opera subject after completion of their opera Die Frau ohne Schatten. The librettist sent him in 1921 an outline titled Danae oder die Vernunftheirat (Danae or the Marriage of Convenience), joining together two ancient myths that originally had nothing to do with each other. The one was about the shower of gold into which Jupiter had once transformed himself so as to seduce Danae, the other about the fabulously wealthy King Midas, at whose touch everything turns to gold. In Hofmannsthal’s eyes this subject matter ‘continued the line of Rosenkavalier, Ariadne prologue, Bürger als Edelmann, calling for ‘light, witty music, the kind only you, and only at the present stage of your life, can create. The subject is from early mythical antiquity, treated impudently, like a “Milesian fairy tale” in the manner of Lucian. The more French your approach to it, the better.’

Strauss demonstrated keen interest at first, but for reasons that are not apparent the work bogged down and Strauss turned to other projects. It is thanks to publication in the magazine Corona in 1933 that Hofmannsthal’s draft did not fall into oblivion after the author’s death in 1929. It was brought to the attention of Willi Schuh, Strauss’s biographer, who then recalled it to the composer’s memory. His old enthusiasm was rekindled, and he asked his literary collabor-ator at the time, Joseph Gregor, to devote himself to the material. During the ensuing stages of their work together, accompanied as it was by vigorous disputes, the demands Strauss voiced over and over again for a delicate, slightly ironic Singspiel atmosphere in the spirit of Hofmannsthal’s draft drifted ever farther into the background; nonetheless, the work, designated by Strauss as ‘cheerful mythology’, ended up turning out to the composer’s satisfaction. After the only performance Strauss was ever able to attend in person – the legendary dress rehearsal of 16 August 1944 at the Salzburg Festival – he spoke of Die Liebe der Danae as ‘my final embrace of Greek culture and the conclusive union of German music with the Greek soul’.

From the compositional standpoint the score presents a retrospect of Strauss’s life work, as it were. As in a mosaic, facets as different as the historical-mytho-logical path he had followed in Guntram or Elektra combine with the Mozartean lightness of Der Rosenkavalier to produce a new unity. Musicologist Ernst Krause aptly characterized this symbiosis as ‘a German bel canto opera that seeks for the land of the Greeks with vocal cords’. Strauss himself held the view that he had with ‘undiminished creative power’ composed music that he ‘could set right beside the happiest inspirations in Rosenkavalier, Ariadne, or Arabella.’ The situation at the outset of the piece is likewise compar-able to Arabella; the impoverished King Pollux is trying, after all, to get his daughter Danae paired off with a rich man, Midas, so as to consolidate his own financial circumstances, just as Count Waldner intends to do with Arabella. Behind the man who seems to be Midas, however, is concealed the god Jupiter, who is in love with Danae and hoping for a new amorous adventure in this disguise. Midas himself, a poor muleteer, who as compensation for allowing the god to assume his shape has been granted the gift of turning everything he touches into gold, is accompanying Jupiter as a messenger. Sent ahead to prepare the suit, his encounter with Danae unfolds very differently from what was planned. Not only does he fall undyingly in love with her; Danae as well, whom Jupiter had known how to dazzle earlier with a shower of gold in her dream, becomes aware of her true feelings. But when Midas embraces Danae, the gift imparted by Jupiter takes effect: Danae turns into a golden statue. The wrathful god confronts her with a choice – either she gives herself to him or lives a life of poverty with Midas, his power of transformation now revoked. Danae decides for Midas. The couple leads a happy life in a meager hut, and during a last effort to win Danae for himself, Jupiter is forced to admit that the power of gold has lost all appeal for her. Gently resigning himself, he blesses the couple and all of human love.

With the outpouring of melody that marks this departure, the greatest imaginable distance to the contrapuntally nervous opening of the opera is achieved: ‘Too beautiful to be true’, one critic found.

Ronny Dietrich
(Translation: Vincent Kling)


Die Liebe der Danae • TerraceTalk with Franz Welser-Möst

posted in: Opera

( 27 Jul 2016 )  “The atmosphere at the rehearsals is wonderful, despite the fact that this difficult – and therefore rarely performed – work does present special challenges for the outstanding cast of singers and the Vienna Philharmonic. The wonderful results of a previous cooperation on a Strauss opera – namely Der Rosenkavalier in 2014 and 2015 – between Franz Welser-Möst, the Vienna Philharmonic and Krassimira Stoyanova seems to me to portend nothing but good for 2016,” says Festival President Helga Rabl-Stadler. 

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Franz Welser-Möst in Conversation about „Die Liebe der Danae“ by Richard Strauss

posted in: Opera

( 29 Mar 2016 ) This Festival summer, Franz Welser-Möst will conduct the Strauss opera Die Liebe der Danae, a work closely linked to Salzburg Festival history: in 1944, the Festival was cancelled after the dress rehearsal for the opera had taken place; the work only saw its world premiere in 1952. Since then, the opera appeared on the Festival programme one more time – in 2002. Now it will be shown in a new production. In an exclusive interview, Franz Welser-Möst discusses the serenity in the music of Die Liebe der Danae, the role Strauss plays in his repertoire and his work with singers. Together with his Cleveland Orchestra, he also gives two concerts this Festival summer, conducting not only Richard Strauss, but also works by Thomas Adès and Béla Bartók. We spoke to him about the sound of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic, about Salzburg, Krassimira Stoyanova, Anja Harteros and violinist Leila Josefowicz.

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Opera 2016

posted in: Opera

( 5 Nov 2015 ) The 2016 opera programme includes three new productions, two revivals, one re-staging, one revival from the Salzburg Whitsun Festival and three operas performed in concert. The 2016 Festival opens with a world premiere by the British composer Thomas Adès. The Exterminating Angel is the title of an opera in two acts which will also be shown in London, Copenhagen and in New York in 2018, after its Salzburg premiere.

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Motive Die Liebe der Danae, © Robert Mertens


Grosses Festspielhaus



Supported by Freunde der Salzburger Festspiele e.V. Bad Reichenhall

The opera will be broadcast by ORF on August 6 at 7:30 pm on the Ö1 channel.

Die Liebe der Danae will be recorded by ORF in cooperation with UNITEL in collaboration with the Salzburg Festival and the Vienna Philharmonic and will be broadcasted as follows:
August 12, 9:20 pm on ORF2 and CLASSICA

Siemens Festival>Nights:
August 12, 9:20 pm
August 23, 8:00 pm