“Be advised, it is a production worth crossing continents, even oceans to see.”
– Opera Today
A rich man hires an opera group and a troupe of actors to entertain his guests. At the last minute he notices there’s not enough time for both performances. They must take place simultaneously, melding together theatre and opera. The merriment of traditional commedia dell’arte characters invades the story of Ariadne, who’s awaiting death.
The critically acclaimed Ariadne auf Naxos will see its premiere in January 2020. The intriguing performance brings Ariadne’s world to the modern day with cinematic realism.
Recommended for children over the age of 12.
Richard Strauss, whose Der Rosenkavalier had made him the leading opera composer of his time, wanted to try something completely different. He composed music for the play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, and created an opera, Ariadne, to be performed in the middle of it. Everyone had liked Der Rosenkavalier, but no one liked this.
The richly flowing music was so beautiful, however, that Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal decided to use it again. They built a whole new opera around Ariadne, and this time it was a success. Ever since its world premiere in 1916, Ariadne auf Naxos has been one of Strauss’s most popular operas.
Ariadne auf Naxos will be performed as an international co-production of six opera companies, which was premiered at the 2018 Festival D’Aix-en-Provence Festival in France. Its director, Katie Mitchell, is one of today’s most celebrated theatre and opera directors. The precise direction of the production has been received with wild excitement by opera lovers across the world.
The richest man in Vienna has invited an opera group and a troupe of commedia dell’arte actors, led by Zerbinetta, to perform at his party. The two troupes quarrel about who should perform first, but the major-domo announces that the performances must be simultaneous in order to end before the fireworks. The composer initially refuses to make any changes to his opera, but the music master reminds him that he won’t get his reward unless the opera is performed. He agrees to abridge the opera, but the singers are adamant that only others’ arias must be cut. As the dance master gives Zerbinetta a role in the opera plot, the desperate composer realises what he has agreed to.
The opera performance begins. Ariadne, who’s been abandoned by Theseus, is on the island of Naxos with the nymphs Nayad, Dryad and Echo. Ariadne bemoans her fate and longs for death. Zerbinetta’s troupe tries to lift her spirits by singing and dancing, but it’s all in vain. In a long and glorious aria, Zerbinetta advocates forgetting the past and finding a new lover. Ariadne chooses the Harlequin from the troupe and they sing a duet about love. The nymphs announce someone’s arrival. It’s Bacchus, who Ariadne mistakes for the harbinger of death. Bacchus falls in love with Ariadne. Ariadne wants to follow him, and the opera ends with a duet by Ariadne and Bacchus.
A full synopsis and background information are available in the programme booklet.
A Festival D’Aix-en-Provence production
A co-production with Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Royal Danish Opera, and Gran Teatre del Liceu.
Header image credit: Pascal Victor/ArtcomPress
Other images: Stefan Bremer
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