Penthesilea (opera)

Penthesilea is a one-act opera by Othmar Schoeck, to a German-language libretto by the composer, after the work of the same name by Heinrich von Kleist. It was first performed at the Staatsoper in Dresden on 8 January 1927.

Opera by Othmar Schoeck
Based onPenthesilea
by Heinrich von Kleist
8 January 1927 (1927-01-08)
Semperoper, Dresden

Schoeck used the contrast between C major and F major as a musical basis for his work.[1] Robin Holloway has noted the similarity of theme to Richard Strauss' Elektra, as well as Schoeck's use of two pianos in the instrumentation.[2]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 8 January 1927
(Conductor: Hermann Ludwig Kutzschbach)
Penthesilea mezzo-soprano Irma Tervani
Meroe soprano Eugenie Burckhardt
High Priestess mezzo-soprano Elfriede Haberkorn
Prothoe soprano Maria Rösler-Keuschnigg
Diomedes tenor Ludwig Eybisch
Achilles bass Friedrich Plaschke
Herald baritone Paul Schöffler


The story is about the tragic love of Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, and Achilles.

Achilles has defeated the Amazon queen Penthesilea in battle. However, he falls in love with her. After Penthesilea has recovered, Achilles allows her to think that she defeated him, because Amazon law stipulates a warrior may only associate with a man whom she has defeated. Under this idea, Penthesilea returns the affections of Achilles. However, she finally does learn the truth, that in fact he defeated her in battle, and her love for him becomes hatred. Achilles then offers a second challenge to her, but he plans to come unarmed and to let her win. In her anger, she takes up the challenge, and in the duel, she savagely kills him.



  1. ^ Peter Palmer, Review of Othmar Schoeck: eine Biographie by Chris Walton (translated Ken W. Bartlett). Music & Letters, 77(2), pp. 293–295 (May 1996)
  2. ^ Holloway, Robin, "Schoeck the Evolutionary" (October 2001). Tempo (New Ser.), 218: pp. 2–6.

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