Photo Journal: The Face That Launched a Thousand Dhows: Deborah Voigt Stars as Strauss's 'Egyptian Helen' at the Met

Classic Arts News   Photo Journal: The Face That Launched a Thousand Dhows: Deborah Voigt Stars as Strauss's 'Egyptian Helen' at the Met
Deborah Voigt is probably the world's reigning Strauss soprano. She has built her career on Ariadne, a role with which she made worldwide headlines at one point; she's given acclaimed performances as the Marschallin, the Empress (Die Frau ohne Schatten), and Chrysothemis (Elektra) and in the Four Last Songs; she had a major triumph in Chicago last fall in her first staged Salome.

Beginning tonight, she's making Strauss history at the Metropolitan Opera — singing the title role, Helen of Troy, in a real rarity, Die ‹gyptische Helena. The Met hasn't staged the work since the 1928 premiere starring Maria Jeritza, and the house is presenting this new production by director/designer David Fielding especially for Voigt. What's more, she'll be singing, for the first time on the Met stage, the full five-minute "Second Wedding Night" aria that opens Act II. (Strauss cut the piece in half for Jeritza.) We already know that Voigt can make glorious work of the score: she sang it in concert at Lincoln Center and recorded it with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra in 2002.

Joining Voigt for the production is a spectacular Strauss soprano of a different sort: coloratura phenomenon Diana Damrau, who has thrilled audiences at the Met and elsewhere as Ariadne's foil, the comedienne Zerbinetta. In this work Damrau plays Aithra, an Egyptian sorceress. Tenor Torsten Kerl sings King Menelaus, Helen's husband (and the man she left for Paris). Baritone Wolfgang Brendel is Altair, the king of the mountains, with tenor Garrett Sorenson as his son Da-Ud; mezzo Jill Grove portrays the resident oracle, the Omniscient Mussel.

Fabio Luisi conducts seven performances of Die ‹gyptische Helena from tonight through April 7. The Monday evening performance on March 19 will be available in free streaming audio via the Met's website (, and the Saturday matinee on March 31 will be broadcast internationally over the Toll Brothers/Metropolitan Opera Radio Network (check local listings).

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All photos by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

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