Daphne
  • Richard Strauss. Bukolische Tragödie in one act. 1938.
  • Libretto by Joseph Gregor, with advice from Stefan Zweig.
  • First performed at the Staatsoper, Dresden, on 15th October 1938.
CHARACTERS
Daphne soprano
Peneios, a fisherman, her father bass
Gaea, her mother contralto
Leukippos, a shepherd tenor
Apollo tenor
Four Shepherds tenor, baritone & two basses
Two Maids sopranos

A pastoral prelude ushers in the preparations for the feast of Dionysus. Daphne is wooed, against her will, by the shepherd Leukippos, for whom she had entertained merely childish affection. Her mother Gaea tells her that one day her heart will blossom like a flower, but Daphne refuses the robes and flowers brought her for the festival and runs away. Leukippos resolves to wear the robes and thus further his intent. Peneios invokes the gods, summoning them to the banquet, at which Apollo appears, in the guise of a cowherd. He is greeted by Daphne, but his embraces confuse her. In the dance in honour of Dionysus, Leukippos is unmasked by Apollo, who, challenged, now reveals himself, shooting Leukippos dead with his arrow. Daphne’s sadness persuades Apollo to ask Zeus to make Leukippos his flute-player on Olympus and to make the chaste Daphne a sacred laurel tree, whose leaves may crown his devotees.

The evocative closing scene has found its own place outside the opera house. The opera itself, intended originally as a companion piece for the one-act Friedenstag (Day of Peace), proved too long for that purpose, but remains too short for a whole evening. The suggested opposition of Dionysus and Apollo, a commonplace from Nietzsche, remains unrealised, with neither god true to form. Nevertheless the work contains much music of nostalgic beauty, not least in the pastoral prelude and the idyllic setting.