Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Richard Strauss - Ariadne auf Naxos / Susan Anthony Iride Martinez Sophie Koch Jon Villars Colin Davis Dresden Opera|
Actors: Susan Anthony, Jon Villars, Colin Davis
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Musicals & Performing Arts
This unique opera is a gently satirical artistic debate contrasting the artificial conventions of opera seria with the direct, knockabout humour of the commedia dell?arte. The story begins with a wealthy gentleman commissi... more »
Sparkling, Updated Ariadne With Good Ideas
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 07/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm still reeling from watching the new DVD of the 2000 production of Marco Arturo Marelli's production of "Ariadne auf Naxos" for Dresden's Semperoper. Delightfully zany are the words that spring immediately to mind.
Updated (though difficult during the prologue to tell just what period, costumes time traveling as they seem) Marelli's marvelous set gives the feeling of a communal dressing/rehearsal area in a theatre's basement. Dressing rooms on either side, with a large lavatory stage right has occupants coming and going, hangers-on washing hands, etc. as the idealistic composer hyperactively approaches a nervous breakdown.
Sophie Koch (who for all the world looks like Laura San Giacomo auditioning for "Master Class" - or is it the young Joel Grey as Schubert?) is offers a genuinely manic Komponist. The voice has a squeaky clean element to it while possessing a nice warmth and weight, gorgeous tone and fearless on top.
The prologue fairly snaps under Marelli's fast paced direction lending it the feel of one of those hyperactive screwball 1930's Hollywood comedies (I kept waiting to see Carol Lombard or the Marx Brothers pop in) - the entire cast coming close to crashing in some corybantic crescendo. (Yes, it's that much fun!) I love when a director makes me see a familiar work with fresh eyes and experience it almost as for the first time. This Ariadne does that.
Susan Anthony's Prima Donna is properly prima donnish. Early on the voice
reminded me of the same "type" voice as Kiri Te Kanawa, but with a touch more "oomph" - her beautiful, quick, even vibrato not the least of those shared qualities. If there is weakness it (at least here) is in the mid range which just doesn't project nearly as well as the rest which, unfortunately makes a good chunk of "Es gibt ein Reich" just a tad less exciting than I hoped for. The upper range, however, is stunning - a truly gorgeous sound. Anthony's Ariadne is hilarious, stubborn and heartbreaking. Pretty damned good!
Iride Martinez looks like a Costa Rican Eartha Kitt. In a great 50's style gown with sequined serpents coiling at the top, her Zerbinetta is one of great cynical beauty as she dances, jumps, moves with vain elegance like a musical comedy pro. "Grossmachtige Prinzessin" is clearly the showstopper here and Martinez is sassy, just shy of crass, and white hot. She possesses a crystalline quality to the voice and the technical ability to pull of the role with barely a hitch and tosses off that big High E that not only dazzles it has enough size to it to knock you off your seat!
The oddly attired nymphs come into their own and provide some of the work's most beautiful music as they announce and welcome Bacchus to the island - truly one of my favorite moments in any of Strauss's scores.
The comedia del arte troupe is hilariously gotten up in campy beach wear (with umbrellas, beach balls, etc.) and they sing and expertly execute their choreography with a delightful and slightly derisive comic panache.
Jon Villars brief appearance as the tenor offers a perfect, over-the-top egomaniac in a dressing gown. His Bacchus is a bit wooden (what Bacchus isn't?) and fairly unfortunately costumed his face (as well as all exposed skin) painted gold with a white post-punk hairstyle that makes him look like a negative of Buster Crabbe's Flash Gordon. The voice however, is a marvel. Sizeable and gleaming Villars cuts through everything with a glorious, thrilling bite. (He does have a problem with one note - an A I believe, and looked momentarily irritated, but recovered beautifully).
The final duet is creatively carried out, the couple making use of the then closed stage curtain as they slowly sink into it as if an abyss only to have it re-open to reveal thrilling visual effects that come close to matching Strauss's magic score.
Marelli puts new spins in this Ariadne, creating even more characters than usual in an already well-populated opera. He makes visible the guests attending "Ariadne" as they mill about sipping champagne, bored, sitting on the set or watching television. Another wonderful touch is having the composer part of the performance - alternatively smitten and horrified by everyone and everything. We see his face register self-indulgent joy as he listens to Ariadne sing his glorious music; we watch him transfixed, almost transfigured with a touch of homoerotic wonder as his Bacchus approaches him; and finally we see even this idealistic youth succumb to the charms of Zerbinetta.
Colin Davis leads a fairly propulsive reading, drawing ravishing sound from the orchestra. The entire thing, while never really feeling "rushed" seems to pass in the blink of an eye.
This truly is a theatrically thrilling production of Ariadne that could hold its own in any great theatre district. Ariadne auf Broadway, anyone?
"Wonderful Opera and Performance--Sophie Koch Is Smashing"
Paul L. McKaskle | Berkeley, California | 05/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
Ariadne auf Naxos is one of my favorite operas and I have seen it on stage numerous times. However, in the past I have found the Prologue only occasionally amusing but not nearly as enjoyable as the opera proper. But with this production, and especially with the singing and acting of Sophie Koch as the Composer, I now truly enjoy the Prologue. Koch is simply magnificent as the young, innocent, idealistic composer who discovers that her masterpiece is to be trashed by the whim of her aristocratic employer. She is horrified when she meets Zerbinetta, whose Commedia dell Arte troop is to perform simultaneously with her opera. But, Zerbinetta works her magic on the Composer and for a few moments the Composer is transfixed by Zerbinetta. But the bustle of getting ready for the performance (performances?) sweeps over the stage and the Prologue comes to an end.
As Ariadne, Susan Anthony, new to me, does an excellent job. Of those I've seen on stage, Elisabeth Schwartzkopf remains the standard for me, and both Leontyne Price and Deborah Voigt are close competitors in the role. Susan Anthony also comes very close. Iride Martinez, also new to me, is superb as Zerbinetta. I haven't yet had the pleasure of seeing Natalie Dessay sing the role (though I have her on CD) and she might even be better, and I've heard several other excellent Zerbinetta's in the past, but Martinez does a wonderful job, especially with the show-stopper Grossmachtige Prinzessen. The rest of the cast is strong. The major-domo is wonderfully imperious.
The production is set in "modern times" and is unconventional in several respects. I'm not a big fan of "updating" operas. I think updating Rosenkavalier, for example, would be a terrible mistake-its whole logic depends on the ethos of the time in which it is set. But I don't think there is any compelling reason to perform Ariadne as an 18th century event. Wealthy boorish "patrons" exist today. I also don't think the production could properly be called "euro-trash" (of which there is too much these days.) It is unconventional, and there are a couple of jarring features in the sets-the "bathroom" at stage right in the Prologue and some sort of TV device in the background during the Opera proper, but mostly the set is pretty realistic given that it is supposed to be set in a large mansion, not in a theater. So, the Prologue takes place in a makeshift backstage and the Opera proper is in a space somewhere in the house. The inclusion of the guests milling around on the periphery of the stage might be jarring to some, but it didn't bother me-it emphasized that the "patron" was a boor who has boorish friends. Finally, during the opera proper, the Composer makes several (silent) appearances, most prominently where "he" "plays" the piano during Grossmachtige Prinzessen while looking as if "he" is in love with Zerbinetta. I thought these were nice touches (though, doubtless, controversial) since it always seemed to me to be a shame that the Composer disappears at the end of the Prologue and we never know how he might have reacted to the final product. I think the Opera proper is simply magnificent music-easily on my "desert-island top ten" list--and I have probably listened to it on LP and then on CD multiple hundreds of times in the past half century. So it is nice to see in this production that the Composer is captivated by the final product.
I recommend this DVD wholeheartedly, first for Sophie Koch's incredible performance, second, for the solid performance of everyone else and, third, for an imaginative production-- though "modern" not jarringly so, at least to me."
Simply the best opera experience on DVD yet!
MDFinMIA | N. Miami, FL USA | 07/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 2000 production by the Semperopera Dresden makes perhaps the best case yet for opera on DVD. A magical, brilliant, breathtaking musical performance in a staging that is inventive, compelling and involving. I simply adored this disc! Cast is uniformly excellent, with a particular nod to the Composer of Sophie Koch. Colin Davis leads an exquisite, nuanced reading from the Dresdeners, and the sound and image are first rate. Splendid!"
Strange staging, fantastic singing
Dryadrianne | 11/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, the staging is weird, there are many things that are just make no sense. I did not understand what was happening in the bathroom to the right, and what was that for, but the singing is spectacular. Villars and Susan Anthony are very good, Sophie Koch is incredible, and Iride Martinez as Zerbinetta is sensational! Where did they find her? She is possibly the best Zerbinetta I have ever seen, so spunky and vivacious, and her singing is unbelivable. I can only imagine what it feels to come on stage after she did the Grossmachtige Prinzess, as Ms Voigt once said about Nathalie Dessay, she wipes the stage with that aria! And her scenes with the Composer are wonderfull, too, so ignore the bizarre production ideas, they are a bit annoying, but they will not detract you from enjoying the fantastic singing. Orchestra is very good too. This is one Ariadne DVD to own."