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2001 production photo from The Egyptian Helen

The Egyptian Helen 2001

July 21 - August 15, 2001

When magic fails…

…true love triumphs in Strauss’ shimmering jewel as Helen and Menelas revive their marriage after the Trojan War.

Music By
Richard Strauss
Libretto By
Hugo von Hofmannsthal


Act I

The Trojan War, between Troy and Sparta, began when the Trojan Paris seduced and abducted Helen. She was the wife of the Spartan King Menelas and was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. After ten years of battle, the Spartans finally defeated the Trojans, with Menelas killing Paris and reclaiming Helen. Menelas starts to sail home, intending to offer Helen as a sacrifice for the many casualties of the war.

Palace of the Sea-Goddess Aithra, overlooking the ocean. Aithra longs for her absent lover, the sea god Poseidon. As Menelas’ ship passes her magical island, Aithra decides to foil his plan to murder Helen by calling up a storm. Shipwrecked, Helen and Menelas are cast up upon the shore. Menelas is still bent upon killing Helen – using the same sword with which he slew Paris. Aithra and her elves use sorcery to deter him, making Menelas believe he is back at war and must fight Paris again. Aithra gets Helen to drink a “Potion of Forgetfulness” that lulls her to sleep and erases memory of the past. When Menelas returns, believing he has killed both Paris and Helen, Aithra drugs him with the same potion. Aithra makes them believe that the terrible events of the last decade were all imaginary – that the gods had rescued Helen from Paris and hidden her away during the war and that the “Helen” whom Menelas has just slain was her ghostly twin. Menelas is happy to accept this fiction and be reunited. Helen asks Aithra to transport them to a remote place where no one has heard of the Trojan Helen.

Act II

A Palm Grove at the base of Mount Atlas. Awakening from their second wedding night, Helen is rhapsodic, but Menelas doubts the woman he sees is the “real” Helen. Helen wants to win back the love of her husband but begins to realize that their relationship cannot be reclaimed by forgetting the past. An Egyptian entourage, led by Altair and his son Da-ud, is captivated by Helen’s beauty; however, they rekindle Menelas’ memories of the Trojans who robbed him of Helen. Believing Da-ud to be Paris, Menelas kills him. Helen makes Menelas realize that he still feels bound to the “Trojan Helen,” whom he believes to be dead, not the current-day Helen. She has a “Potion of Remembrance” brewed for Menelas. He takes it, believing it to be a death potion that will unite him with the Trojan Helen. When he awakens and sees true love and repentance in Helen’s eyes, he accepts her for herself. Aithra and Poseidon save the couple from Altair’s warriors and spirit them away with their daughter Hermione to a new life in Sparta.


Christine Brewer headshot

Christine Brewer



John Horton Murray headshot

John Horton Murray



Judith Howarth headshot

Judith Howarth



Mark Delavan headshot

Mark Delavan



Jill Grove headshot

Jill Grove


The Omniscient Mussel

John McVeigh headshot

John McVeigh



Santa Fe Opera

Candice Hunter



Coral Owdom headshot

Coral Owdom


First Servant

Stephanie Woodling headshot

Stephanie Woodling


Second Servant

Santa Fe Opera

Carollyn Rock


First Elf

Deborah van Renterghem headshot

Deborah van Renterghem


Second Elf

Santa Fe Opera

Mary Poetschke


Third Elf

Tracie Luck headshot

Tracie Luck


Fourth Elf

John Crosby headshot

John Crosby


Bruce Donnell headshot

Bruce Donnell


Adam Stockhausen headshot

Adam Stockhausen

Scenic Designer

Rick Fisher headshot

Rick Fisher

Lighting Designer

Sara Rudner headshot

Sara Rudner


Robert Wood headshot

Robert Wood

Chorus Master