May 27, 2014
One of the many peak experiences in the War Memorial during the Kurt Herbert Adler intendancy was the 1976 production of Richard Strauss' 1919 Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman Without a Shadow), conducted by Karl Böhm in his San Francisco debut, and with the superb cast of Leonie Rysanek in the title role, Matti Kastu (the Emperor), Walter Berry (Barak), Ursula Schröder-Feinen (Barak’s Wife), and Ruth Hesse (the Empress’ Nurse).
That historic performance will be broadcast on KDFC-FM, beginning at 8 p.m. on June 1.
San Francisco Opera gave the opera's U.S. premiere in 1959. For the 1976 revival, Adler engaged a young German director, Nikolaus Lehnhoff, to create a new production. Lehnhoff became a company regular after that, his work for her culminating in San Francisco's acclaimed 1985 Ring cycle.
SFO Archivist Kori Lockhart writes:
In 1959, sets and costumes were designed by the young Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. There were two U.S. debuts that year: Edith Lang's and Mino Yahia's. Mary Costa was the Guardian of the Temple Gates and one of the Solo Voices; Louis Quilico was one of the Watchmen. The originally scheduled cast was to include Leonie Rysanek as the Empress, Eleanor Steber as the Dyer's Wife, and Otto Edelmann as Barak. Rysanek and Edelmann cancelled because of illness; Steber, who was learning the role for San Francisco, also bowed out. See the archive for the cast, including Irene Dalis as the Nurse. 1976 was the year we expanded the pit for the first time ever, in order to accommodate the large orchestra and Dr. Böhm. (The pit is now in a permanently expanded mode.) Prior to 1976, we either used reduced orchestrations for Strauss and Wagner operas, or jammed players under the stage in the torpedo room, as Fritz Reiner did in the 1930s, managing to sardine in a full complement of 100+ players into the small pit.