Ägyptische Helena, Die (‘The Egyptian Helen’)
- David Murray
(‘The Egyptian Helen’)
Oper in two acts by Richard Strauss to a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal; Dresden, Staatsoper, 6 June 1928 (revised version, Salzburg, Festspielhaus, 14 August 1933).
After Strauss completed Die Frau ohne Schatten in 1917 there was a long hiatus in his operatic partnership with Hofmannsthal. In the early 1920s Hofmannsthal made abortive sketches for a Semiramis libretto (which Strauss had yearned for since Elektra) and on the Danae myth (left for Joseph Gregor to realize 17 years later); but among several classical candidates they agreed at last upon Helen. Strauss saw her as a role for Maria Jeritza, their original Ariadne and Empress, who had first entranced him in the title role of Offenbach’s La belle Hélène. He and Hofmannsthal assured each other that this opera would be buoyant and sparkling in three acts with ballet-interludes, much spoken dialogue and light arioso. But the Helen who fascinated the writer came from a more sophisticated legend, a poetical conjecture by Stesichorus (...