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1991 production photo from Die schweigsame Frau

Die schweigsame Frau 1991

July 20 - August 21, 1991

Comic disguises and chicanery…

… lead to confusion in Strauss’ colorful account of a stubborn recluse who decides to defy his nephew by marrying, but only if he can find “a silent woman.”

Music By
Richard Strauss
Libretto By
Stefan Zweig


Act I

London, 1780. Sir John Morosus, a rich bachelor and retired admiral, lives an isolated life in his London home. He cannot stand people. He has locked himself in and does not want to see anyone. He cannot stand noise, which he attributes co a cannonfire mishap. He only sees his barber and his housekeeper. The barber wants him to marry and the housekeeper wants to be his wife. But, Morosus believes he is too old and set in his ways; above all, he cannot risk having a woman in the house – at least not the talkative housekeeper who already disturbs his peace and his ears. Besides: “A silent woman! Ha! A sea without salt? A ship without rats? A silent woman can only be found in a churchyard…”

Unexpectedly, his nephew and heir, Henry, arrives. Morosus had believed him lost forever. His happiness is short-lived when Henry introduces his companions – a group of Italian opera singers who have traveled to England to seek work. Morosus learns that Henry himself has also become an opera singer and he immediately demands his resignation from this unworthy profession: “Opera! Rather the noise in the galleys than these modern ear aches that they call opera. Let them trill and scream ’til their throats explode…I will not listen to it…!” He orders Henry, threatening his disinheritance, to leave his wife, the opera singer Aminta. To underline the seriousness of his intentions, he requests his barber to bring him “a silent woman” whom he will marry the next day.

The singers feel insulted and humiliated. Aminta begs Henry to abandon her and the company in order to retain his inheritance but Henry reassures her and his colleagues of his loyalty and devotion. The barber conceives of a plan which will enable Henry to keep his wife and his claim and give them all the chance to wreck revenge on the old man for his churlishness. They greet the plot with delight.

Act II

The following day. Morosus prepares for his proposed wedding. He will not listen to the housekeeper’s warnings. The barber presents the bridegroom with the choice of three different candidates. From these, Morosus chooses the shy, quiet Timida (who is, of course, Aminta in disguise). The Priest and the Notary seal the marriage. Sailors and neighbors burst in with their congratulations. Finally, left alone with his wife, Morosus’ happiness seems complete. However, she soon shows him another side to her unique character and turns into a screaming and hysterical fury. Morosus is shattered. As a savior in time of need, Henry arrives on cue. The distraught bridegroom promises absolute forgiveness and full restitution in return for the removal of this ranting woman. Henry agrees to help and sends the exhausted Morosus to bed.

As Henry and Aminta embrace, Morosus’ voice is heard: “Henry, can I sleep now? Do you hold her fast?” “Yes, Uncle, all night long.” “Is she quiet now?” “Yes, she is quiet, not a breath from her lips.  She cannot move. I hold her.”


The next day. Aminta and her friends, with all their artistry and craft, continue to tease and provoke Morosus. His quiet home is turned upside down. His ears ache from all their singing and noise. All is chaos until the barber brings the Chief Justice who can officiate the divorce. Morosus is relieved to regain his freedom. The trick is executed and they can all drop their disguises. Morosus understands that he has been duped and the victim of a hoax, but can only laugh at his foolishness and forgive their cruel treatment. They are all reconciled. Henry keeps both his wife and his inheritance (the barber will get his cut), and the old Admiral once again has his silence: “How beautiful is the music – but most beautiful when it stops! How wonderful is a young, silent woman – but most wonderful when she belongs to someone else! How splendid is Life – but most splendid if one is not a fool, and knows how to live it.”


Eric Halfvarson headshot

Eric Halfvarson


Sir John Morosus

Erie Mills headshot

Erie Mills



Mark Thomsen headshot

Mark Thomsen


Henry Morosus

Joyce Castle headshot

Joyce Castle


The Housekeeper

David Malis headshot

David Malis


The Barber

François Loup headshot

François Loup



Santa Fe Opera

Gimi Beni



Santa Fe Opera

Brenda Harris



Mimi Lerner headshot

Mimi Lerner



Santa Fe Opera

James Ramlet



John Crosby headshot

John Crosby


Goran Jarvefelt headshot

Göran Järvefelt



Ken Cazan headshot

Ken Cazan


Carl Friedrich Oberle headshot

Carl Friedrich Oberle

Scenic & Costume Designer

Santa Fe Opera

Kim Davis

Lighting Designer

Gary Wedow headshot

Gary Wedow

Chorus Master