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Ariadne in Washington

The Washington National Opera has produced a little YouTube video with snippets of the Chris Alexander production (originated in Seattle) of Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos" that's opening on Saturday night.

Just for the sake of contrast, here's a similar preview of a production by Robert Carsen that opened in Munich last year and went on to Berlin.

Thoughts on Ariadne? Reactions to the WNO production, or to other productions you've seen? Post them here.

By Anne Midgette  |  October 23, 2009; 4:06 PM ET
Categories:  Washington , opera  
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Next: In performance: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra


Washington Opera's production looks like a lot more fun, though the Carsen video does boast half-naked men and an infinitely stronger cast. But Carsen's looks dark. I'd rather have a vibrant Ariadne auf Naxos than a sexy one, so while it's a close call, I'd have to opt for the Washington production. I'm seeing it tomorrow, I have high hopes.

I am so pleased that Diana Damrau will be in Washington soon.

Posted by: anony2 | October 23, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for starting the Ariadne thread.

The WNO production clip seems to be somewhat in the tradition of Oklahoma while the Munich production clip has more of a Blue Angel milieu. Perhaps the association with Munich makes it seem to have a sort of late-night beery gloominess, while the WNO production is still bubbly in the early evening. In favor of the Munich, I can understand what they are singing here and there; no such luck with the WNO. When will the WNO cast get some elocution coaching? Fortunately, music is music even if sung in no recognizable language and I look forward to seeing and hearing Ariadne. Alas, not until Friday the 13th of November.

Posted by: gauthier310 | October 24, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and Scalia will be supernumeraries at tonight's opening of Ariadne auf Naxos. They portray party guests all through out the second act. Also joining the cast as "celebrity supers" are Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht. You heard it here first.

Posted by: OperaLove | October 24, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I have seen three performance of AAN, the first and the most curious, at the Met in 1964, with Leonie Rysanek and Elisabeth Söderström, curious in that the prologue was spoken and sung in English and the opera in German. The second was in Dresden just after "die Wende" , which means the turning point of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Both productions were very enjoyable conventional period productions, but with that glorious music any production has something to offer. The third was the magnificent Christof Loy production at the Royal Operas House. Now I am all for tradition and do not like Christof Loy stuff in general, but this was an exception because the text does invite modern interpretations. Mr. Jourdain (Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme) is really a timeless figure, how many nouveau riche do you know? And although he only appears in the opera in the guise of his major-domo, it is his spirit which pervades the entire opera. I was fortunate enough to attend the opening of the second run (2008) at which the slimmed Deborah Voigt finally took over the Prima Donna, Robert Dean Smith the Tenor, Kristine Jepson the Composer, and wonder of wonders, Alexander Pereira flew in from Zürich as a replacement for the Major Domo. Now besides his memorable role as director of the Zürich opera (sadly soon to end as he will take over the direction of the Salzburg Festival), he is a born comedian and his part, which he has performed many times, was as much of a highlight of the evening as the wonderful singing and the wonderful music conducted by Mark Elder. The sets were ingenious. In the prologue the performers are gathered in some basement room in the rich man's house and communications from above are initiated when the Major Domo arrives by elevator. The opera, in a rococo room is magical and although Zerbinneta and Co are dressed as punks, the entire affair is done with delicate feeling.
Well, what can I say about the little UTube excerpts? The WNO looks much more appreciative of the wonderful Hugo von Hofmannsthal text than the Munich production and, well, if Diana Damrau is singing, be prepared for a wonderful evening. The excerpt from Munich highlights the unfortunate coarseness of some of Robert Carsen's recent productions. The senseless appearance of young men in underpants really distracts from the proceedings. If I want to see young men or women in underpants or less, I would go to a Live art class.

Posted by: RichardFranklin | October 25, 2009 7:02 AM | Report abuse

A comment to Anne Midgette's review.
The von Hoffmansthal stage directions for the opera says (I translate): "As far as scenery (and costumes) go, don't treat them in the manner of a parody but seriously in the heroic opera style of earlier times (Louis XIV or Louis XV)." He goes on to say that old scenery from a Glück opera might do, maybe one can find some old scenery hanging around. But is this not a tongue-in-cheek mockery? Is it not a reflexion on the fun and mockery of Moliere?
Do they really go off into the sunset (as a quotation from "Modern Times"). Well at the end of the stage directions Hoffmannsthal admonishes the director to use his fantasy. So whether Ariadne and Bacchus disappear under a baladachin or wander away towards the sinking sun seems OK for HvH.
And the final words of Zerbinetta are indeed:
"Kommt der neue Gott gegangen,
Hingegeben sind wir stumm!"
And Strauss would not be Strauss if ice the cake at the end of the opera. So I must accept your criticism of the performances but not of the opera itself.
Richard Franklin

Posted by: RichardFranklin | October 28, 2009 4:52 AM | Report abuse

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