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Opera In English - Strauss: Ariadne On Naxos / Armstrong, Brewer, Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Strauss,R. / Brewer / Scottish Chamber Orch
Release Date: 09/28/2010 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #:  3168  
Composer:  Richard Strauss
Performer:  Stephen FryAlice CooteGillian KeithChristine Brewer,   ... 
Conductor:  Richard Armstrong
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

My first thought upon hearing this Ariadne in English was, "Why isn't the Prologue always done in the vernacular?" Perhaps it was the presence of the miraculous Stephen Fry as the Major-Domo: Speaking as if he were picking up the words between his thumb and index finger, his appalling gravity is by itself enough to make the Composer weep. Being able to hear each intricate request and snipe, every bit of rapturous sincerity from the Composer, really makes this Prologue come to life. The Opera itself is equally well-treated in Christopher Cowell's translation, with even much of Zerbinetta's aria--taken quite quickly--understandable.

Perhaps it might be more awkward with a less sophisticated cast, but the combination
Read more of Americans, Canadians, Brits, and Australians, all singing in their native tongue, is comfortable and natural, even if our Bacchus is the only singer who sounds particularly lower-48. (This is not a criticism; at least he doesn't try to "Brit" it up.) Alice Coote's Composer--passionate, angry, romantic--with lines delivered rapidly, is superb; only Tatiana Troyanos makes the rushing to and fro, the desperation, more vivid on disc. Alan Opie's Music Master, sounding oddly like Thomas Allen, is sharply characterized; John Graham-Hall's Dancing Master is properly fussy and witty.

Christine Brewer's Prima Donna/Ariadne is towering. More fiery than Jessye Norman, less silvery than Gundula Janowitz, she still has absolute dignity, and I cannot recall hearing this role so easily sung. Top notes ring out with utter confidence and low notes are merely a lower extension--no register breaks, no surprises. Her attention to the text is sensitive; her opera seria attitude in her opening, low-lying monolog is delivered with just the right deadly seriousness, and "There is a land" soars exquisitely. Her soft singing in the final duet is stunning and her grander utterances gleam.

Robert Dean Smith may lack the "ping" that one longs for as Bacchus, but he's fearless, untiring, always steady, always in tune and honest with dynamic shadings. Roderick Williams (Harlequin), Matthew Rose (Truffaldino), John Graham-Hall (Scaramuccio), and Wynne Evans (Brighella) are a superb quartet, their ensemble singing impeccable, and each manages to create a profile.

Gillian Keith's Zerbinetta is lovely and flirtatious in the Prologue, but some listeners might be a bit put off by her "Your gracious Royal Highness". The voice has a sharp edge to it in the stratosphere, but I was won over by her amazing accuracy and agility (only the start of one high note goes momentarily astray at the very end of the aria), and her flawlessly-placed trills are in the early-Dessay class. She doesn't sing with as much "face" as the French soprano (who does?), but it is still a terrific performance, particularly at such a tempo. And frankly, the "sharp edge" may be due to the somewhat over-bright recording that makes the other women occasionally sound harsh as well.

As a bonus, the first CD begins with Strauss' 35-minute orchestral suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Op. 60, a playful take-off on 18th-century style, with tunes by Jean-Baptiste Lully. It is as handsomely played as the opera, with Richard Armstrong leading it all with confidence, wit, and vigor. As a sui generis performance, this Ariadne can't be recommended highly enough; straight from the shoulder, it would also do as your only Ariadne, correct language notwithstanding. Turn down the treble a bit.

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Stephen Fry (Voice), Alice Coote (Mezzo Soprano), Gillian Keith (Soprano),
Christine Brewer (Soprano), Robert Dean Smith (Tenor)
Conductor:  Richard Armstrong
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911/1916; Germany 
2.
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, Op. 60: Suite by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Richard Armstrong
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1918; Germany 

Sound Samples

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Der Burger als Edelmann) Suite, Op. 60, TrV 228c: I. Ouverture (Jourdain - der Burger)
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Der Burger als Edelmann) Suite, Op. 60, TrV 228c: II. Menuett
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Der Burger als Edelmann) Suite, Op. 60, TrV 228c: III. Der Fechtmeister
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Der Burger als Edelmann) Suite, Op. 60, TrV 228c: IV. Auftritt und Tanz der Schneider
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Der Burger als Edelmann) Suite, Op. 60, TrV 228c: V. Das Menuett des Lully
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Der Burger als Edelmann) Suite, Op. 60, TrV 228c: VI. Courante
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Der Burger als Edelmann) Suite, Op. 60, TrV 228c: VII. Aufritt des Cleonte
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Der Burger als Edelmann) Suite, Op. 60, TrV 228c: VIII. Vorspiel zum II. Aufzug (Intermezzo)
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Der Burger als Edelmann) Suite, Op. 60, TrV 228c: IX. Das Diner: Tafelmusik
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Prologue: Orchestral Introduction
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Prologue: My good Major-Domo (Music Master, Major-Domo)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Prologue: This dressing room is given to mam'zelle Zerbinetta (Footman, Officer, Composer, Tenor, Wigmaker, Zerbinetta, Prima Donna, Music Master, Dancing Master)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Prologue: I can show them the secrets of the universe (Composer, Music Master)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Prologue: Fellow actors, dearest of friends' (Zerbinetta, Composer, Music Master, Prima Donna, Dancing Master)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Prologue: The company's rising from table (Footman, Music Master, Major-Domo, Prima Donna, Dancing Master, Tenor, Zerbinetta, Composer)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Prologue: I'm staggered - how unexpected! (Music Master, Composer, Dancing Master, Tenor, Prima Donna, Zerbinetta)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Prologue: She takes him for the God of Death (Composer, Zerbinetta)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Prologue: A moment means nothing (Zerbinetta, Composer)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Prologue: The stage awaits you (Music Master, Prima Donna, Composer)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: Overture
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: Sleeping? (Naiad, Dryad, Echo)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: Ah! (Ariadne, Echo, Harlequin, Zerbinetta, Truffaldino)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: A golden time was Theseus-Ariadne (Ariadne, Naiad, Dryad, Echo, Harlequin, Zerbinetta, Scaramuccio, Truffaldino)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: Loving, hating, hoping, fearing (Harlequin, Echo, Zerbinetta)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: There is a land, a world untainted (Ariadne)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: The lady, we are sad to see (Brighella, Scaramuccio, Harlequin, Truffaldino, Zerbinetta)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: Your gracious Royal Highness (Zerbinetta)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: The moment I think I'm true to one lover (Zerbinetta)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: Quite a sermon, but a waste of effort (Harlequin, Zerbinetta, Brighella, Scaramuccio, Truffaldino)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: To console a stubborn woman (Brighella, Scaramuccio, Harlequin, Truffaldino, Zerbinetta)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: A shining marvel, a youthful God! (Dryad, Naiad, Echo)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: Circe, Circe can you still hear me? (Bacchus, Ariadne, Naiad, Dryad, Echo)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: Theseus! (Ariadne, Bacchus)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: Me? Can you be sure? (Bacchus, Ariadne)
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (Sung in English): The Opera: Shall we not pass over? (Ariadne, Bacchus, Naiad, Dryad, Echo, Zerbinetta)

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