Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Ariadne auf Naxos - opera in one act with prologue; libretto
by Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1911/1916)
Haushofmeister (the major-domo) - Alexander Pereira
Ein Musiklehrer (a music master) - Michael Volle
Der Komponist (the composer) - Michelle Breedt
Der Tenor / Bacchus - Roberto Saccà
Ein Tanzmeister (a dance master) - Guy de Mey
Zerbinetta - Elena Moşuc
Primadonna / Ariadne - Emily Magee
Harlekin - Gabriel Bermúdez
Scaramuccio - Martin Zysset
Truffaldin - Reinhard Mayr
Brighella - Blagoj Nacoski
Najade - Eva Liebau
Dryade - Irène Friedli
Echo - Sandra Trattnigg
Orchestra of the Zurich Opera House/Christoph von Dohnányi
rec. Stage performance, Zurich Opera House, 2006. DVD
Notes included with cast-list
ARTHAUS MUSIK 107 249 [127:00]
Hofmannsthal ‘s original concept for the opera Ariadne auf Naxos
was as a half-hour addition to his version of Moliere’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme,
with Monsieur Jourdain commanding a group of Italian players and an opera company
to perform simultaneously. This version did not work out, but the idea of an
opera about Ariadne with both classical and commedia dell’arte
characters remained with Strauss and Hofmannsthal. Eventually, after four years
they produced their definitive version of this idea - see the fascinating correspondence
between the two. In this we have a Vorspiel in which the two groups of
players, once they have gotten over the shock of having to perform together,
debate questions of art and life. During the opera proper Ariadne, supported
by the commedia dell’arte characters, longs for death after her
abandonment by Theseus. She is eventually rescued and transformed by Bacchus.
The staging in this production is slightly unusual in that the Vorspiel
is enacted before a set of very heavy curtains and no other props, while the
opera itself takes place in a reproduction of Zurich’s famous Kronenhalle
Restaurant. The curtains do well for the characters of the Vorspiel but
the restaurant setting that follows provides a number of staging problems. Even
today certain emotions and actions seem out of place in a restaurant.
In the role of the Komponist Michelle Breedt is very convincing both vocally
and dramatically, though she is given some unreal stage business to do. Emily
Magee as Ariadne is also convincing, but occasionally loses vocal control, although
by the time she sings the famous “Es gibt ein Reich” this
is no longer a problem. Roberto Saccà did not have the ideal voice for
the role of Bacchus but his performance was appropriately forceful and commanding
overall. Both he and Ms. Magee are superlative in the final scenes of the opera.
The star of the show is Elena Moşuc as Zerbinetta, a role that she plays
with a mixture of whimsy and seriousness that is quite convincing, while simultaneously
negotiating all the vocal difficulties of her part. Lesser roles in the cast
are variably handled, but the Najade, Dryade, Echo trio are a joy to watch as
they deal with the varying stage requirements.
I had never really thought of Christoph von Dohnányi as a Straussian,
but here he shows a complete mastery of the Strauss idiom and an almost unparalleled
understanding of the importance of the small orchestra required by Ariadne.
His is a performance of more heft than the version by Sinopoli (see
review), more reminiscent of the Solti recording or the live Böhm.
As regards the orchestra, the first horn and several of the woodwinds of the
Zurich Opera should be commended, although the sound quality of this disc does
not always serve them well. Overall, the visuals present no major problems,
although this production was originally for television. This is a Region “0”
release of a DVD previously available in North America (also on Blu-ray). One
can warmly endorse this DVD musically, if not scenically, but the deciding factor
would have to be Dohnányi’s overall conception and his firm command
of the score.
Fine conducting and a stellar performance by Elena Moşuc as Zerbinetta
put this DVD over the top - definitely worth looking into.