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 Lost".