Notes and Editorial Reviews
Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players, and not compatible with standard DVD players.
The prologue to this Ariadne, a Zurich opera house performance from December 2006, takes place in front of the curtain, on a bare stage and in modern dress. The Majordomo is played by Alexander Pereira, who is the intendant of the Zurich opera house. As the prologue ends, the Composer puts a gun to his head.
The "opera" itself is set in a relatively famous and elegant Zurich restaurant. As the curtain rises Ariadne is seen alone at a table, drinking wine, looking miserably unhappy, and she becomes more dejected and somewhat disoriented as her long, opening monologues continue. Three
waitresses take the roles of Najade, Dryade, and Echo. When the players enter, they are restaurant personnel; a bit later they are customers, in white tuxes, with a sassy Zerbinetta at their center. They get tipsy and leave, only to return as sharp thug-like guys in black, complete with mullets (I guess Zerbinetta likes all types). Half way through Zerbinetta's big aria, the Composer is seen standing in the restaurant's doorway, watching--I guess he opted out of suicide.
Eventually all of the players get drunk and a restaurant-emptying melée ensues. As the three waitresses sing of the arrival of a god (which they read about in the tabloids, as if he were a rock star), Ariadne looks as if she's losing her mind entirely. When Bacchus arrives, he sits down to dine alone and Ariadne takes a handful of pills. He comforts her, and as they sing she seems to get drowsier and less focused. She expires in his arms--only to revive slowly at the last moment to receive a bouquet of roses brought to her by the intendant from the prologue, accompanied by the dancing master and music master!
If all this--the concept of director Claus Guth with sets and costumes by Christain Schmidt--seems like a terrible stretch, it isn't any more absurd than the original, in which the "wealthy M. Jourdain" wishes to be entertained by two simultaneous stories performed by two separate troupes of players. Of course it all gets into trouble in the details: any reference in the libretto to an island, gods, or the sleeping Ariadne are senseless in this setting. But the whole works well, with the emotions very much on the table (no word-play intended) and the reality vs illusion, play-within-a-play themes very honestly served.
Emily Magee is a ravishing Ariadne in every way. Looking elegant and sophisticated, acting up a storm just through facial expressions that would make a lesser actress look foolish, she sings with handsome tone and absolute security. Her many levels of piano singing perfectly express the character's sad plight. If her "Es gibt ein Reich" is not quite as luminescent as Jessye Norman's or Gundula Janowitz's, well, it's in a fine class right near theirs.
Elena Mosuc's Zerbinetta is not in a Dessay/Damrau/Gruberova class vocally, but she's thoroughly convincing. Roberto Sacca as Bacchus is not the Heldentenor called for, and there are moments when the orchestra nearly buries him; but his suave sound, fine phrasing, and ease with the punishing tessitura make his portrayal a success, filled with warmth. Michelle Breedt's Composer, dressed in the usual black, hide-me pants suit, is luscious--passionate, free at all ranges, expressive; she is a very interesting singer. The Harlekin of Gabriel Bermudez is wonderfully energetic and musical, and the rest of the cast is top-notch.
Christoph von Dohnányi leads a transparent reading, both in the wittier, satiric moments and in the opera seria moments. The chamber-music effect works brilliantly in the intimacy of the director's approach, and the grandeur of the final duet is enormously effective with Dohnányi's subtle manner of deepening the tension, scene by scene. I'm not certain that this ought to be anyone's first and only Ariadne (that probably should be the one from the Met with Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle on DG), but it's a fascinating look at a unique work, played and sung extraordinarily well.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing the standard DVD version]
Picture format: 1080i Full HD
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Booklet notes: English, French, German
Running time: 127 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (BD50)
Works on This Recording
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60 by Richard Strauss
Emily Magee (Soprano),
Elena Mosuc (Soprano),
Ruben Drole (Voice),
Andrew Ashwin (Bass),
Michelle Breedt (Mezzo Soprano),
Michael Volle (Baritone),
Alexander Pereira (Voice),
Roberto Saccà (Tenor),
Guy de Mey (Tenor)
Christoph von Dohnányi
Zurich Opera Orchestra
Written: 1911/1916; Germany
Date of Recording: 12/2006
Venue: Opernhaus Zürich
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