• Hans Werner Henze
  • Phaedra (2007)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Co-commissioned and co-produced by Staatsoper Unter den Linden Berlin, Berliner Festspiele, Théâtre de la Monnaie Brussels, Alte Oper Frankfurt and Wiener Festwochen.

  • 2(afl.pic)2(ca)2(1=asx,2=bcl)2(cbn)2(=Wtb)2202perchp.cel.pfstr(10111) + pre-recorded "bruitage"
  • Mezzo soprano,Soprano, Tenor, Counter Tenor, Baritone
  • 1 hr 20 min

Programme Note

Synopsis:

1. Morning
I. The Labyrinth
Echoes sound through the ruins of the labyrinth, in the depths of which Theseus conquered the Minotaur, and become voices in a new story: Phaedra and Hippolytus.

II. At the Edge of the Wood
Hippolytus has set off for the hunt. Phaedra wanders through the first light of dawn. She is driven by desire and shame, by love for her stepson Hippolytus and self-loathing. She seeks her death. As she tries to slit her wrists with a shard of glass but the goddess Aphrodite holds her back. Aphrodite, in love herself with Hippolytus, is offended by his exclusive worship of Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, and wants to take revenge.

III. Thicket
In her idle wanderings over boulders and through thickets, Phaedra, accompanied by Aphrodite, happens upon the sleeping Hippolytus. She kneels down before him and sings of her love. Hippolytus awakens. Phaedra confesses her feelings frankly to him. Artemis steps out of the wood to warn Hippolytus. Hippolytus outraged by his stepmother, brutally pushes her away. Phaedra’s feelings change suddenly to hate. Aphrodite and Phaedra unite in their rage. Hippolytus, however, only hears the call of Artemis and turns away unmoved. Phaedra grabs hold of Hippolytus’ knfe and makes another attempt to slit her wrists. Aphrodite holds her back once again.

IV. The Snare
Phaedra lies upon her bed in the palace and writes Theseus a letter slandering her stepson. She claims that Hippolytus raped her. The unsuspecting Hippolytus returns from the hunt.

V. The Death of Hippolytus
Artemis enters the palace. She narrates: Theseus believed Phaedra’s letter. He determined to kill his son and asked Poseidon for help. As Hippolytus drove along the coast in his chariot, Poseidon allowed the resurrected Minotaur to rise out of the sea. The horses shied and dragged Hippolytus over the rocks. While Artemis sings, the mortally wounded Hippolytus staggers toward her and collapses. The slam of a trapdoor is heard. Phaedra hangs from a rope. The Minotaur dances in the background.

2. Evening
I. Do you remember who you were?
Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, has brought Hippolytus to her grove in Nemi in Italy. With an assistant, she works on Hippolytus’ body to bring him back to life. Once they succeed, she locks him up in a cage and gives him a new name: Virbius. Phaedra rises from the Underworld as a bird-being and mocks Hippolytus as the work and pet of the goddess.

II. When do the dead approach you, Hippolytus?
A storm approaches the grove in Nemi. Aphrodite appears in a ring of light and demands the right of the Gods: Hippolytus belongs in the Underworld. Phaedra and Aphrodite circle Hippolytus’ cage in order to seize him. They sing of death, and both lure Hippolytus like an animal. Artemis catches Hippolytus in a net and hides him in a safe cave.

III. In the Mirror
Distraught, Hippolytus crouches before a spring in the cave. He examines his reflection in the water. He does not know who he is. He dreams of a faraway garden. Phaedra strolls toward him like a barmaid to lure him into the Underworld. Hippolytus, frightened and confused, pushes Phaedra away and struggles out of the cave. An earthquake shakes the cave.

IV. King of the Forest
Hippolytus has risen as King of the Forest. He wanders through the grove in Nemi. What has happened and will happen, becomes blurred in a dance.

© Christian Lehnert

View Score

Act 2 score preview
Vocal score preview

Reviews