Saturday 19 July 2008

Ariadne dies on Naxos

Ariadne auf Naxos. Zurich Opera House 2006. Production: Claus Guth. Cast: Emily Magee (Ariadne), Elena Mosuc (Zerbinetta), Roberto Saccá (Bacchus), Michelle Breedt (Composer), Michael Volle (Music teacher). Conductor: Christoph van Dohnanyi. Further information here.

For those familiar with Claus Guth´s staging of Nozze di Figaro in Salzburg 2006, it should come as no surprise that his Ariadne auf Naxos is to be taken very seriously. It is, in fact, a tragedy.

The prologue is acted out in front of a massive grey curtain, from which the singers appear and disappear. Theater within the theater... The blind music master tries to find his way around, the major-domo yells his orders from the balcony box and the Composer gets increasingly desperate and eventually shoots himself through the head. Though there are no decorations, it´s nevertheless very interesting and alive, due to the detailed and intelligent direction of the singers, all in modern dress.

The second act (the real play) takes place in a restaurant. In fact, the restaurant is an exact replica of the famous Kronenhalle restaurant, located a few blocks from the Zurich Opera House.This seemingly strange setting fits surprisingly well with Hugo von Hofmannsthal´s libretto. Ariadne is sitting alone at a table in the virtually empty restaurant waiting for her lover. The nymphs are servants. The dead composers ghost appears from time to time. Very fittingly, Zerbinetta is at another table having a party with her friends, trying to cheer Ariadne up. But Ariadne is inconsolable, and eventually commits suicide with an overdose of pills and sings her final duet with Bacchus as she is dying.

Emily Magee is simply a superb Ariadne. She has everything this part asks for: The looks, the acting skills and the necessary dramatic vocal expression as well as a beautiful tone. Probably the finest performance of her career.
Elena Mosuc isa wonderful Zerbinetta, fuller in tone than most of her colleagues, perhaps not so sharp in the coloratura, but dramatically convincing.
Michelle Breedt is dramatically perfect as the desperate Composer, though her voice is not particularly beautiful and tends to be shrill at times. Another fine performance from Michael Volle, this time as the blind music teacher.

The orchestra with Dohnanyi was quite forceful and energetic in accordance with Claus Guth´s interpretation: This is no Strauss light.

Presently the only modern Ariadne production available on DVD.
A most refreshing and intelligent approach from Claus Guth. Highly recommended.

The bottom line:

Emily Magee: 5
Elena Mosuc: 4
Roberto Saccá: 4
Michelle Breedt: 3-4

Claus Guth´s production: 5
Christoph van Dohnanyi: 4

Overall impression: 5

1 comment:

marcillac said...

As I've commented before, I am not particularly enthusiastic about the Guth Figaro and Don G. (his Cosi seems better - at least from the YouTube clips), but even in those cases there could be little doubt about his skill in individual direction - quite superior to that of many of his Regietheater collegues, as well as many "traditional" producers for that matter. Here, however, the approach work exceptionally well, and the musical and dramatic component is generally quite excellent and Mostly's appreciation of such is typically acute.

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