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R. Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos:Soloists, Orchestre Bordeaux-Aquitaine. Conductor: Kwamé Ryan. Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux. 3. 3.2011 (JMI)

New Production

Direction: Roy Rallo

Sets: Marsha Ginsberg

Costumes: Doey Lüthi

Lighting: Christopher Akerlind


Ariadne: Heidi Melton

Zerbinetta: Brenda Rae

Composer: Elza Van Den Heever

Bacchus: Arnold Bezuyen

Harlekin: Thomas Dolié

Music Master: Oliver Zwarg

Nayade: Melody Loulejian

Dryade: Leslie Davis

Echo: Eve Christophe-Fontana

Scaramuccio: François Piolino

Truffaldino: Andrey Zemskov

Brighella: Xin Wang
Dance Master: Olivier Dumait


 Production Picture courtesy of the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux

Bordeaux' s new production of Ariadne auf Naxos is by American Director Roy Rallo, whose work I've not found myself particularly drawn to as yet and this Ariadne hasn't changed matters much. The sets are very simple, even minimalist , with an empty stage in the prologue, a lit square space and some doors at both sides. In it we see Ariadne seated on a chair-clad in a more or less modern, moderately appealing dress like the rest of the cast... but with Ariadne's unflattering costume coming across as the worst of the lot. In this type of production lighting is always particularly relevant, which made the production more unfortunate still, the lighting wasn't all that remarkable here. Too static and short of life, Rollo's production came across as devoid of imagination and eventually descended into boredom.

The Canadian Kwamé Ryan is the principal conductor of the Bordeaux-Aquitaine Orchestra and he got a good performance from the band. That said, the overall impression is made was one of adequacy because it seemed to lack the nuances, so important in Strauss.

American soprano Heidi Melton played the title role. When I saw her in the same theatre in Tannhäuser in 2009 , I was much impressed by her performance in vocal terms. But this young soprano's dramatic abilities are much limited in the way of Alesandra Marc's or Sharon Sweet's. Her voice is magnificent however and her Ariadne was truly outstanding. Hers is one of those voices that are exceedingly difficult to find nowadays, and I think that Wagner could be her best employment. She was without a doubt the best singer in the whole cast and one of the best Ariadnes that can be heard anywhere today.

Another American, Brenda Rae, interpreted Zerbinetta with a soprano well suited to the demands of the character. Her voice is actually rather small, but she can cope with the demanding tessitura of the character even if she does not shine in the top notes. In addition to its vocal demands, Zerbinetta requires considerable stage qualities, and in this respect Brenda Rae fell significantly short of a high standard set by the likes of Diana Damrau etcl. Whether this was primarily her responsibility or the director's, I could not tell.

The young South African soprano Elza Van Den Heever was the other great attraction of the cast, this time in the part of the Composer. This singer is already well known in Bordeaux as one of the most promising current spinto sopranos and since the character was conceived for a mezzo soprano, Mme. Van Den Heever was left struggling with some bottom notes, but otherwise coped remarkably well. She left me great hopes for her Leonora in the Bordeaux Trovatore next month.

The Dutch tenor Arnold Bezuyen sang Bacchus and he was, as it is almost always the case in this role, not quite up to it. One day there will be a demonstration of decent enough tenors against the mistreatment they receive at the hands of Richard Strauss... Arnold Bezuyen will probably be part of it.

Among the secondary characters and Zerbinetts's disappointingly static troupe, only tenor Xin Wang, as Brighella, shone memorably while Eve Christophe-Fontana's Echo was a highlight amid an excellent the trio of nymphs. 

José Ma. Irurzun

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