Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Richard Strauss - Ariadne auf Naxos / Magee Mosuc Sacca Volle Breedt von Dohnanyi Guth |
Opernhaus Zurich 2006
Actors: Emily Magee, Elena Mosuc, Roberto Sacca, Michael Volle, Christoph Von Dohnanyi
Directors: Claus Guth, Thomas Grimm
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Not a First Choice 'Ariadne'
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 02/26/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is not a production of 'Ariadne auf Naxos' that I could recommend to anyone coming to this delicious Richard Strauss opera for the first time. Musically it is reasonably good, but the updating is utterly confusing for anyone who isn't already quite familiar with the work. I would recommend for the first-timer either the Met/Levine/Norman/Battle/Troyanos DVD Richard Strauss - Ariadne auf Naxos / Levine, Norman, Battle, Troyanos, Metropolitan Opera or the classic Salzburg/Böhm/Grist/Jurinac version Richard Strauss - Ariadne auf Naxos / Jurinac, Grist, Hillebrecht, Thomas, Schoffler, Bohm, Salzburg Opera.
This is, I must say, the first production of Ariadne in which I much preferred the Prolog to the Opera proper. It is played entirely in front of the curtain and thus is quite minimalist. But the movements of the principal players and in particular the portrayal of The Composer (by mezzo Michelle Breedt) are engaging. The Opera itself, however, is set in what appears to be the dining room of a resort hotel (or perhaps it is meant to be Monsieur Jourdain's dining room) and Ariadne is apparently a lone diner there. Naiad, Dryad and Echo are waitresses. Initially the commedia dell'arte characters are waiters but later they appear to be local punks (with mullets!). Zerbinetta is dressed in a slinky emerald green gown and I'm not quite clear what she is supposed to represent. The stage action repeatedly contrasts awkwardly with the libretto. For instance, when the three nymphs are talking about Ariadne being asleep, she is seen at her table drinking rosé wine. Bacchus arrives not as a god but as simply another diner. Many such awkward moments occur, making a mishmash of the libretto.
Musically the production is in the dependable hands of Christoph von Dohnanyi and his Zurich Opera Orchestra plays beautifully. Unfortunately the sound recording too often brings the instruments to the fore, almost covering the voices of the singers. It is nice to be able to hear Strauss's inventive orchestration but it would have been better to hear the voices clearly. Emily Magee makes a convincing Ariadne; her sadness is conveyed nicely, and god knows she spends most of the opera moping about, so it takes some clever acting on her part. She does well with her big aria, Es gibt ein Reich, but she's no Jessye Norman. Roberto Saccà is a fairly good Bacchus, although I suspect his voice is probably a bit small for the part and that it has been boosted a bit for the DVD. Elena Mosuc's Zerbinetta has too many patches of approximate or smudged coloratura; her 'Grossmächtige Prinzessin', Strauss's coloratura aria satirizing all such arias, is only moderately satisfying. Dramatically she is fine, though. The commedia dell'arte figures sing and act well.
Bottom line: Not a first choice for this delightful opera. But for those who are interested in a different take on it and who don't mind some Regietheater aspects in presentation, this may be worth a look.
Ariadne and her drunk lovers.
Anna Shlimovich | Boston, MA United States | 04/20/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This production is another sad victim of modern experimentation on the wittiest and therefore vulnerable to crudity ideas of such a sarcastically intellectual composer as Richard Strauss and an equally demanding and sophisticated literati as Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
Both of them were cautious that the audience might not be cultured enough to appreciate the opus; indeed in my opinion, this opera opens itself not from the first time and requires more viewing and studying to be fully understood - its gems of satire and invention; the marvelous blend of an ancient sublime myth and new ideology of reason and rationale.
Musically, it refers to the old strife between two opera traditions - the first is Italian opera buffa or giocosa, represented by Rossini and his contemporary composers, here underscored by the setting within Commedia dell'Arte, with Zerbinetta (Colombina) and her four lovers - Harlekin, Scaramuccio, Truffaldin and Brighella, with emphasis on light and easy attitudes towards amorous affairs, on fun and entertainment and dismissal of any serious passion. The second rival tradition is that of German opera, represented by Wagner, with its heaviness, extreme seriousness, overwhelming passions for love and death.
Thus, the whole idea and irony of the work was to juxtapose the supreme ideals of Wagner/Ariadne to healthy cynicism of Rossini/Zerbinetta/Commedia dell'Arte. But with this interpretation the fabulous conception is totally lost. Is this drug-using alcoholic middle-aged woman (Ariadne) such a moral superior to a seductress (Zerbinetta)? Traditionally, abandoned Ariadne is as a double of Senta; she is a symbol of female purity, faithfulness and devotion to her one and only lover; of the suffering which is total and unblemished; this is why she, a mortal woman, is given a god to spouse. But this Ariadne is weak and corrupted; her divine unscrupulous morals are lost in drunkenness, her will and resolve is drowned in a wine glass, and the image created by this production director is not believable. Zerbinetta too is not a playful charming bouncing dancer, but rather an experienced corpulent middle-aged courtesan, bawdy and vulgar; her suitors are alike - they look like polished gangsters, but somehow the whole mise-en-scène is not funny at all. Certainly more subtle nuances, as Zerbinetta's confession to the Composer that she is only superficially flirtatious but secretly longing for one true love, cannot be felt with this Zerbinetta. But such delicate twists are very important to the original creators' idea, as they wanted to show that women with such seemingly opposite attitudes - down-to-earth Zerbinetta versus supremely idealistic Ariadne - still possess each other qualities; this is why Zerbinetta can be believed to be dreaming of absolute love while Ariadne, despite her seemingly total devotion to Theseus, finds happiness with another. Here there wasn't much difference in the look and feel of Zerbinetta vs. Ariadne, which is a crudely distorted idea of the comparing the opposites.
Further, many scenes look bizarre - Bacchus speaking of his mother, Semele, consumed by fire, when his father Zeus revealed himself to her, loses any sense due to the setting in a restaurant - he looks like a common man speaking to a drunk woman, and the dialog starts reminding of alcoholic hallucination; but this effect, achieved by modern experiments, adds nothing to the idea of the work -it is neither humorous nor sublime, neither witty nor original; it was neither parody on Rossini nor on Wagner anymore, but only flat, inexpressive and quite banally boring performance. I wonder what was the idea behind that whole restaurant entourage and how would it extend the idea of this opus?
They could add some accent by using different wines for Ariadne (perhaps Chateau Petrus) vs. some common Valpolicella by Zerbinetta, but they were surprisingly inattentive in details, too. This production is so dull.
Vocally this production is quite good, and if one listens to the sound only, it is very decent, although the old Met production with Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman and Tatiana Troyanos is much above vocally. Nonetheless, opera is also a visual art, and in this case it is the visual aspect and the interpretation that is unsuccessful and tiresome; humor is lost and it shows how this piece can feel long, endless and monotonous. It is unfortunate that such a sophisticated opera house as Zurich could not do better with this splendid and musically-intellectually challenging opus.