Daphne - Santa Fe Opera, August, 2007
Daphne is the original tree hugger, to the exclusion of all else, really.
Her childhood buddy, Leukoppos, thinks they ought to have a thing going.
But when he suggests they start dating, she demurs, and says she loves
him like a brother. He is unhappy at that, and stomps off, after
breaking his flute to show the depth of his upset. She says she is
happy only with the trees, and flowers and streams, and would eschew
human company if she could.
But her mother (a marvelous contralto, with a range well down into the
baritone) tells her she has to come to the party tonight, the feast
of Dionysus. (One suspects that her mother is thinking that the outlook
for grandchildren is not too good.) Daphne assents, like a dutiful child.
At the party Apollo wanders in, being rather smitten with Daphne. He
gets a little further than Leukoppos - he offers her the Sun (and why
not?). But when he comes to actually making a pass at her, she rejects
him as well.
Leukoppos shows up at the party, disguised as a maiden - the only way
to get close to Daphne. Apollo is annoyed (being a god, he readily
penetrates Leukoppos's disguise (as does the audience - the tenor is
not really very maiden-like)). He outs Leukoppos, who says he did it
all for love, and continues to court his love. Apollo continues to
be annoyed and keeps interfering. Finally Leukoppos looses his temper
and curses Apollo, who loses his temper in his turn. It is not a good
idea to have a god mad at you. A few arrows and thunderbolts later
Leukoppos is slain, and Daphne is weeping over his body. Apollo is
repentant, and apologizes to Dionysus for wrecking his party and to
Zeus for interfering in the affairs of humans.
Daphne says it's all her fault; when Apollo revealed himself as a god,
she should have told him to go back to Olympos, and leave the poor
mortals alone. She says all she ever wanted to do was to be one
with the trees. Then damn if she didn't turn into a tree, right
there on stage, in front of everybody.
Strauss's score is, I guess, what you would call lush. I've never
exactly known what that term means when applied to music, but yes,
the words and actions of the players were elevated to the cosmic
plane by the music. (A slight complaint that the music was just as
cosmic and portentous when there were a couple of shepherds on stage
discussing the grape harvest as when Apollo was apologizing to Zeus.)
Strauss is rather amazing - how can the same person write both
"Salome" and "The Fledermaus"? Cover the waterfront from the cosmic to
the sitcom? But then Shakespeare wrote both "Macbeth" and "Loves Labor