The Royal Opera: Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14 Concert Package, SoundBite and Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Sunday 6th July

Symphony Hall

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Sir Antonio Pappano conductor
Karita Mattila Ariadne/Prima Donna
Roberto Saccà Bacchus
Jane Archibald Zerbinetta
Ruxandra Donose The Composer
Markus Werba Harlequin
Sir Thomas Allen The Music Master
Ed Lyon Dancing Master
Ashley Riches Wig Maker
Jihoon Kim Lackey
Wynne Evans Scaramuccio
Paul Schweinester Brighella
Jeremy White Truffaldino
David Butt Philip Officer
Sofia Fomina Naiad
Karen Cargill Dryad
Kiandra Howarth Echo
Christoph Quest Major Domo

Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos 130’

This concert has a running time of c 2 hours 35 minutes including one 25 minute interval.

The Royal Opera’s visits to Symphony Hall are always highlights of the season, and with Sir Antonio Pappano conducting a cast that includes Karita Mattila and Sir Thomas Allen, this performance of Strauss’s brilliant chamber opera, in the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, should be something genuinely special. In baroque Vienna, a grand opera company and a panto troupe are forced onto the same stage: what happens next is uproarious, unpredictable – and ultimately sublime.

This production has already attracted some fantastic reviews. Read The Guardian’s 4* review here and the Financial Times’s 4* review here.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine explains why he has recommended this afternoon’s concert:

Richard Strauss’s opera is a clever piece of commentary on the role of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art – as well as a hilarious and sometimes slapstick dig at Viennese upper class society. The music, as you’d expect from Strauss, is ravishing – and you might want to keep your ears peeled for some death-defying vocal acrobatics in Part II courtesy of the fiery Zerbinetta…

Concert performance sung in German with English surtitles. Please note surtitles may not be visible from every seat. Please check when booking.

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Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The three nymphs held the trials and tribulations of Ariadne together. They entered rear centre, first Karen Cargill as Dryad and Sofia Fomina as Naiad, to be joined by Kiandra Howarth as Echo. I thought Aussie Howarth, another Jette Parker Young Artist, deserves special mention for her delightful contribution, achieving the appropriate vagueness to her character. Overall the nymphs emanated an ethereal aura, in keeping with their function. This included their angelic guardianship role over Ariadne whilst also expressing her innermost thoughts: her states of tenderness, hatred, traumatism and bliss all emerged. One celestial highlight was their Töne, töne, süsse Stimme (Sing on, sing on, sweet God) one of Strauss’ best loved tunes. Not that Mattila didn’t display these emotions as well, if not better; she was stunning, a prima donna in every sense. Although there was no semblance of a cave, with head slightly bowed, she was a stationary sleepwalker, abandoned by Theseus. How could this hero reward the woman who saved him from Crete and the Minotaur with such a fate? The languor of the situation was made absolute by the silvery harps of Lucy Wakeford and Hugo Webb. I wondered whether Mattila might have donned a shawl/mantle, as referred to in the magnificent libretto of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, but it was superfluous. Her bearing said it all. Mattila was the best Ariadne I have seen and heard, she was Ariadne. When occupying centre stage, which was for considerable periods, she exuded class and presence. There was no need for Pappano to hold back his players whilst she was singing; she effortlessly rose above them with passion and quality – and over the whole register required of her. When she was longing to meet with death, in Wo war ich? Tot? (Where was I? Dead?) I was on the edge of my seat! When she first hears the voice of Bacchus, there was no turn of the head at this double mistake in identity; her catatonic state was so intense it took a while to break it – a nice touch in direction I thought as liberation was still someway off. Comparable to the great Wagnerian ones, the love duet between Mattila and Roberto Saccà as Bacchus, was as wunderbar as the lines of Hofmannsthal. Indeed Saccà, albeit in a lesser role, was as good as Mattila, his heldentenor delivery both forceful and true.”     …

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Leading the comedy cast is Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta who is happy to flirt with anyone if it helps her achieve her aim. We see the masterstroke of Strauss in Zerbinetta though because while she appears a superficial butterfly, her words belie a deeper desire to be truly loved and to love in return, creating a parallel with Ariadne.

Karita Mattila is the Prima Donna engaged to play Ariadne. She is imperious and supercilious in the first act but really comes into her own in the second as she takes on the role of the abandoned Ariadne. Here is a woman singing her soul out as she shares her loneliness and begs to die.

Her agony ensures the juxtaposition when the comedy troupe come onstage is all the stronger. She may be in the depths of despair but Zerbinetta and her friends tell us a woman can jump from one man to another with ease.

There are moments of real comedy genius in Ariadne auf Naxos and that humour comes out of the disjoint between the two companies and their outlooks. When the opera company stress that Ariadne is alone and broken-hearted on her island the comic return that it’s a good job they are going to come along to keep her company. Their complete lack of awareness of the spirit of opera makes every opera-goer in the audience smile.

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House is conducted with plenty of enthusiasm by Sit Antonio Pappano who teases out the subtleties of Strauss’s music but also ensures gusto when needed.

The concert production doesn’t appear to lack anything by being performed without sets – if anything it concentrates the audience’s attention on Strauss’s lyrical wit.”

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