4 January 2005 | standardmetal
Very stylish and serviceable.
This 1999 (released 2000) production of Richard Strauss' 1912 (rev. 1916) opera "Ariadne auf Naxos" is very stylishly done with not too many anachronisms (yes, video cameras and screens on stage and the usual black leather outfits without which "contemporary" operatic productions cannot, apparently, exist.). There are, no doubt, better versions on DVD but there is little I can fault on this one.
The history of the opera is odd in that it was originally the entertainment at the end of Strauss' incidental music for Moliere's "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme" in German translation. ("Der Burger als Edelman".) Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Strauss' first important librettist was of a philosophic turn of mind as was also the second, Stefan Zweig and their librettos tend to be rather "talky". Strauss' music seems the opposite, consisting of gorgeous washes of romantic sound and melodies projected by his virtuoso orchestration. But much of the music, particularly in the early part of the opera could have been written by Strauss in his sleep. Coming right after "Der Rosenkavalier", it is perhaps a bit disappointing but here patience has its rewards.
The most ravishing music early on is given to the Commedia del Arte players who interrupt and comment on Ariadne's anguish after being deserted by Theseus and try to cheer her. In this opera, Strauss' love for the female voice is much in evidence. The part of the (male) composer, a surrogate for Strauss himself, is taken by a female soprano (Octavian in Rosenkavalier is his most famous example of a "trouser role" rather like Cherubino in Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro".) The cast is generally quite good; Susan Anthony as the Prima-Donna (Ariadne) does justice to the part especially when the opera proper gets underway. Zerbinetta (Iride Martinez) negotiates her very difficult coloratura aria with ease and she projects her coquettish and cynical aspect well. Friedrich Wilhelm Junge is a standout in the non-singing part of the authoritarian majordomo and Jon Villars as the Tenor/Bacchus and Sophie Koch as the composer are quite capable. Theo Adam as the Music-Master has long been beyond his vocal prime but his part is relatively small and he carries it off well.
The production and direction are also very well done.
8 out of 10