Juliene Berk


Hugo von Hofmannsthal is credited with creating the greatest female character ever to tread the operatic boards--Marie Therese (Die Marschallin in the opera DER ROSENKAVALIER). She was his Muse, his Goddess, his ideal fantasized lover. Still haunted by her even after his death, in the afterlife Hugo sets out to write a sequel in which Aphrodite will fulfill his dream: Marie Therese will become his Galatea.

The original opera ends when thirty-one year-old Marie Therese, although passionately in love with her seventeen-year-old lover, Octavian, has sent him away knowing it is inevitable that he will leave her. She has then made it possible for him to marry a young girl, Sophie, with whom he has freshly fallen in love—just as she predicted he would. Hugo creates a Coda to the original opera to show Marie Therese’s real reactions to her sacrifice, whereas Strauss’ opera ends with all three in an ecstatic love trio.

Act One begins ten years later. Never having gotten over his love for the older, sophisticated Marie Therese, Octavian wants to resume his love affair with her. Sophie, still sweet and obedient, is simply his wife and the mother of their two children. Marie Therese is not sure how she feels about Octavian after all this time; she also wants to get to know Sophie, for whom she sacrificed her own love for Octavian. Rendezvous take place side by side between each pair as we see their love expressed…male and female…female and female.

At a crucial point in the play, Marie Therese (GALATEA), throws over the Greek myth’s female subservience to male and comes to life as a vibrant, seeking, uncertain, loving, human being… free to be her SELF and to love whomever and however she chooses.

Hugo is stunned when he comes to realize that he is no longer authoring his creation. He has not been aware that his own concept of GALATEA was formed by the patriarchal culture which not only put a female Muse at the beck and call of the artist, but also dictated that ALL incarnations of Aphrodite--all females -- were innately subservient to males. The famous myth has now been stood on its heels-- the play breaks all tradition by regarding it from the matriarchal point of view.

Hugo’s creation comes to life as he hoped, but not as he expected.