The Santa Fe Opera

Skip to main content Skip to search

Daphne 1996

July 2 - August 22, 1996

A chaste beauty flees Apollo’s advances…

…escaping at last in a transfiguring moment of immortality – one of the greatest final scenes and one of the most hypnotic scores in opera.

Music By
Richard Strauss
Libretto By
Joseph Gregor


Act I

The scene is set in antiquity. A grove near the hut of Peneios.

Four shepherds are discussing the forthcoming feast of Dionysus, traditionally the time for the mating of young couples. Daphne, in a monologue, reveals her love of nature, identifying herself with the trees and flowers around her. The prospect of the festival gives her no pleasure.

Leukippos, her childhood playmate, wishes her to accompany him to the celebration and tries to embrace her. She refuses his overtures, characterizing her affection to him as sisterly. Her mother, Gaea, overhears part of the conversation and warns Daphne that the time will come when she will learn to love. Daphne refuses to wear the dress that Gaea has brought her. Two maidens, hearing Leukippos’ lamentations, at first try to distract him. Then, determined to help him win Daphne’s love, they dress him in the clothing that she rejected.

Peneios, Daphne’s father, prophesies that the day will come when the gods will return and dwell among men. In spite of the murmurs of protest from the shepherds, he affirms his belief that Apollo will come to them. A stranger appears, dressed as a herdsman, and greets the company. Gaea and the shepherds mock Peneios for this mundane realization of his prophecy. Peneios sends for Daphne to look after the stranger.

The mysterious herdsman is amazed at the beauty of Daphne. He likens her to Artemis and calls her “sister”. When she asks him his identity, he explains that he saw her from his chariot and repeats phrases from her opening monologue. She rejoices in his promise that she will never again be parted from the sun, but tears herself free when his advances become passionate.

A procession, led by Peneios and Gaea, approaches. Daphne joins the women and the herdsman joins the men. The feast begins, and the disguised Leukippos invites Daphne to join in the dancing. Suddenly the stranger cries out that Peneios and his daughter are the victims of deception: Leukippos is really a suitor for Daphne’s hand. Daphne complains that she is being doubly deceived, both by the friend of her youth and by the stranger, who is not what he seems to be. The herdsman then reveals himself as Apollo, the sun. In the dispute that follows, Apollo mortally wounds Leukippos.

Daphne blames herself for the death of the young man. Apollo, spellbound by her beauty, asks Dionysus to forgive him for having caused the death of one of his followers. He begs Zeus to be given Daphne, not in mortal form, but as one of the trees she loves so well. From her branches, men in the future would cut the wreaths reserved for the best and bravest among them. As Daphne is gradually transformed into a laurel tree, her voice is heard celebrating her immortal form.


Janice Watson headshot

Janice Watson



Frederic Kalt headshot

Frederic Kalt



Ellen Rabiner headshot

Ellen Rabiner



Mark Thomsen headshot

Mark Thomsen



Dale Travis headshot

Dale Travis



William Andrew Stuckey headshot

William Andrew Stuckey



Randolph Locke headshot

Randolph Locke



Andrew Funk headshot

Andrew Funk



John Marcus Bindel headshot

John Marcus Bindel


Fourth Shepherd

Yvonne Gonzales headshot

Yvonne Gonzales


First Maid

Siphiwe McKenzie headshot

Siphiwe McKenzie


Second Maid

John Crosby headshot

John Crosby


Rosamund Gilmore headshot

Rosamund Gilmore


Carl Friedrich Oberle headshot

Carl Friedrich Oberle

Scenic & Costume Designer

Amy Appleyard headshot

Amy Appleyard

Lighting Designer

Gary Wedow headshot

Gary Wedow

Chorus Master