Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Ariadne auf Naxos (1912)
Primadonna/Ariadne – Susan Anthony (soprano)
Tenor/Bacchus – Jon Villars (tenor)
Composer – Sophie Koch (mezzo)
Zerbinetta – Íride Martinez (soprano)
Chorus of the Staatsoper Dresden
Staatskapelle Dresden/Sir Colin Davis
rec. live, Semperoper, Dresden, 2000
Marco Arturo Marelli (stage director)
Sound: PCM Stereo; Picture: 16:9; Region: 0 (worldwide)
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD 100 171 [130:00]
This Ariadne is a lovely memento of a musically excellent production. The singers are as good as you would hope to hear anywhere. The Semperoper attracted an outstanding cast for what was Dresden’s first production of Ariadne since the theatre’s destruction in the war - it was reopened in 1985. They are headed by a wonderful Ariadne and Bacchus in American team Susan Anthony and Jon Villars. Villars’ voice was tremendously exciting in 2000. He copes brilliantly with Strauss’s ungrateful tenor writing, making Bacchus sound heroic and thrilling rather than the reedy struggle which it too often is. His voice never sounds effortful but he has an ability to coast over the orchestra, ringing at the top while still maintaining a touch of vulnerability. Susan Anthony is, if anything, even finer. Hers is a big voice but it never dominates unnecessarily. She can sing well when part of an ensemble, but during the solo moments she owns the stage and the score. Es gibt ein Reich is particularly good, a large sound thrillingly projected while still maintaining a floating quality that is remarkably alluring. Íride Martinez’s Zerbinetta is a delight, wonderfully tongue-in-cheek for the Prologue then achieving a rare vulnerability in her dialogue with the Composer. She dashes off her main aria with casual ease and phenomenal technical panache and her interaction with the comedians is funny without being trying. Sophie Koch’s Composer is also excellent, full of himself and entirely convinced of his own importance, but singing with wonderfully rich tone and silky opulence in the middle register. There is also a great trio of nymphs and some excellent cameos from Theo Adam as the Music Teacher and Werner Güra as a waspish Dancing Master.
The production is solid without being exceptional. The drama of the Prologue is presented fairly straight, and the Opera itself plays further with the idea of a play-within-a-play by having an audience observing on stage for most of it, though there are some rather bizarre effects with ropes that intrude from time to time and the nymphs’ costumes must have been a nightmare to get in and out of, never mind to move around in! None of this detracts from the musical value of the performance, however, presided over by the ever-young Colin Davis who directs the score with a touch that is by turns light or majestic, as the drama demands. The playing of the Staatskapelle Dresden is predictably excellent. The picture quality and camera direction are very good too. It’s only a shame that the sound is in PCM Stereo only, no surround.
Simon Thompson
A lovely memento of a musically excellent production.