OPERA / Mixed company: David Patrick Stearns on Ariadne auf Naxos
Saturday 13 March 1993
The Metropolitan Opera's previous production sought to establish a common denominator amongst it all. But in Elijah Moshinsky's new production, with sets by Michael Yeargan, the differences are more dramatically highlighted. On the evidence of Thursday's opening night, the result is a stunning show, in which even the most spun-out moments in the opera are prevented from seeming static.
The odd collection of creatures on stage, particularly in the 'Ariadne' opera proper, rivals that of Patrice Chereau's Das Rheingold. Ariadne's trio of female sympathisers, Najade, Dryade and Echo, for example, in their tie-dyed, elevated hoop skirts, tower 12 to 15 feet high. The commedia troupe wander about the stage sharing the audience's sense of amazement. The cliff surrounding Ariadne's grotto is a series of eight jagged smoked mirrors. They look smart and modern while contrasting with the panels in the back of the stage, opening to reveal, alternately, pink rococo clouds and blazing orange sunsets.
The production brought out the cross-references between the prologue and opera proper: the unlikely attraction between the hypersensitive Composer and the vaudevillian Zerbinetta, for example, forshadows Ariadne and Bacchus with their mixture of terror and libido, brought out especially in Susanne Mentzer's finely sung and well-wrought interpretation of the Composer. Ariadne's gargantuan attendants meanwhile referred, perhaps, to Strauss's quotation of the Rheingold Fafner music in the Ariadne prologue.
Jessye Norman is a welcome and familiar presence in the title role, especially in the prologue when her diva tantrums reveal her seldom-seen comic talents. She wasn't in her best voice on Thursday, but her artistry in the role has deepened, thanks especially to a more natural, unaffected way with the words. The biggest triumph of the evening, however, was Ruth Ann Swenson as Zerbinetta. Long a dependable soubrette, she sang here with a bewitching artistry that contrasted tellingly with a cheap, tart-like appearance. As Bacchus, Thomas Moser sang with such impressive musicianship one hardly noticed the lack of lustre in his voice. Conductor Ion Marin made the subtle colours of Strauss's score more vivid than the composer intended, but the Met is a quite big house for what is essentially a chamber opera.
'Ariadne auf Naxos' continues at the Metropolitan Opera in New York until 8 April
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 3 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 4 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
Laurie Lee's Rosie: What is it like to inspire a writer's work and be immortalised forever on the page?
Metal detectors object to digs by Mackenzie Crook about ‘dysfunctional’ hobby in BBC4's 'Detectorists'
Doctor Who series 8: Time Heist pictures revealed ahead of episode 5
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Star Wars 7 leaked set photo of Adam Driver changes everything
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'