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Daphne, Opera of the composer Richard Strauss, in the form of a “one act bucolic tragedy”, marks the return of the Twenty Century opera to atemporal subjects belonging to classical myths. With a symphonic structure, rich in quotes and reminders of the transfigured and sensual world Strauss was fond of, it represents an attempt to relate a pastoral atmosphere to the static nature of long monologues. Here the instrumentation is submitted to a bright lyricism which has its climax in the finale, where there's the protagonist's metamorphosis into a laurel oak, surrounded by such a purity to convey the musical idea of a liberty arabesque.

Synopsis Daphne

Daphne is a chaste girl who is in love with nature and spends her time praising it, giving thanks to the beauty of sunlight, the trees and the flowers. She is the daughter of Peneios and Gaea, and the village they live in is getting ready for the feast to celebrate the goddess Dionysus. Daphne is so in touch with nature that she has no interest in human love nor men's attention. When Leukippos, a shepherd friend of her, shows her his love by trying to embrace her, the girl rejects him and runs away. She also refuses to wear the dress made especially for the festival. Her father Peneios believes that during the celebrations, the gods will return to the earth and he's ready to praise them. He then notices a herdsman that no one knows. He urges his daughter to welcome him and when Daphne greets him, he tells her he has been watching her from his chariot from high above. The herdsman is in fact Apollo in disguise. He then confesses his love to her but the girl reacts in the same way, rejecting the man and running away. Meanwhile, Leukippos has worn the dress which Daphne was supposed to wear, and dances praising the gods. He finds Daphne and asks her to dance and the girl, believing him to be a woman and not feeling threatened, accepts. But Apollo, seeing Daphne dancing with the shepherd is taken by a furious rage and causes a frightening explosion of thunders which stops the feast and spoils the celebration. Then he calls out Daphne and reveals the boy’s real identity to the girl, telling how she's been fooled. The girl replies by pointing out his dishonesty too, to which Apollo reveals his true identity to everyone, sure that it would convince her to accept his love and attention. However, the girl still rejects him and Apollo, jealous and hurt, shoots an arrow straight through Leukippos heart. Daphne, overwhelmed and shocked, mourns the boy's death and feels responsible for the tragedy. Apollo, regretting his own cunning act, asks Zeus to help Daphne by giving her a new life, then he disappears in the sky. Daphne tries to go after him but in that very moment, she is turned into a beautiful and majestic tree and the girl rejoices for being finally part of nature itself.
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