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Ariadne, redux

In today's Washington Post: WNO's "Ariadne" fails to find its voice, by Anne Midgette.
Justice Scalia's bright moment, by The Reliable Source.

Other reviews:
T. L. Ponick in The Washington Times.
Philip Kennicott on his own blog.

By Anne Midgette  |  October 26, 2009; 6:29 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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Well... I'm glad now I didn't plan for opening night! I think I still have some hope for it though that they will get a bit settled in after the WNO's own behind the scenes drama. I have only heard excerpts of this before but they are marvelous bits of music.

Posted by: prokaryote | October 26, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm pasting below the comment associated with the online review of Ariadne. I would also point out that the Post's own Philip Kennicott and Washington Times T.L. Ponick have a far better opinion of this production than Ms. Midgette seems to.

I find myself agreeing with Ms. Midgette more often than not, but in this case I feel strongly that she missed the mark. This was the most seamless Ariadne's I've ever seen, and perfectly balanced the satire and comedy with the more philosophical and poignant parts. The second act is just beautiful, and despite a vocal hiccup here and there, was musically powerful. I haven't seen an ovation like Saturday's in quite a long time, so the audience clearly liked something.

Sieglynda wrote:
This review is more about puffing up an article to make it look long and important rather than an actual critique or information about the actual performance. One should not write about things if you don't have all the facts. The Post is not Fox News for goodness sake. If Ms. Midgette had bothered to stay until the end she would have heard the very enthusiastic audience response all the way through the performance and at the end. This production was brilliantly updated into today's setting making it very relevant to our lives. It demonstrates conflicts between 2 opposing sides, who in the end come together and put aside their differences. If that isn't relevant, I don't know what is. In regards to Ms. Theorin, who was dead on pitch for every note, she used the volume indicators written in the score by Maestro Strauss, thus not singing at the same volume for the entire night. She had inflection and phrasing that knocked the socks off this role. This was a truly remarkable cast and a wonderful evening. If you were only going to see Ariadne once, this is the production to see!

Posted by: anony2 | October 26, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm seeing this later in the season... it's a work I struggle with in general so it will be interesting to see how I respond. I would be interested however in a bit of a discussion on how one performance can be observed so differently by three reviewers.

Posted by: ianw2 | October 26, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

ianw2: "I would be interested however in a bit of a discussion on how one performance can be observed so differently by three reviewers."

I love doing this. But I have to disagree with you on your premise or you'll have to explain to me what you mean by "observed so differently". Outside of perspective, they "observe" the same thing. It's what they CHOOSE to relay of those observations and their impressions of such that are different. So instead of getting a general feel of a review, pick it apart for its details.

Here's one example on Theorin:

Midgette says: "Perhaps attempting to lighten her voice for Strauss's high, shining vocal lines, Theorin, such a powerful Brünnhilde this spring, sometimes sang so quietly she was hard to hear; and when she did allow her voice out at full volume, the singing was sometimes strident and off pitch."

Ponick: "Miss Theorin's voice possesses great power and dignity. She articulates her role perfectly, going along with the travesty while never breaking character."

Kennicott: "As Ariadne, Irene Theorin seemed trapped in vocal middle ground, not quite sure if this is a Strauss soprano in the Daphne mold, or one of his more Wagnerian-sized heroines. She too had moments of pure loveliness—and a lot of growl in her “totenreich” at the beginning of her soliloquy. But I left perplexed, never quite comfortable that she was comfortable in this role."

She "articulates her role perfectly"? She was never off-pitch one instant, she had the proper volume throught the hall, she was in sync with the orchestra and the cast? So she was a machine? It IS clear that Ponick liked her singing and didn't find much fault with it, but other than mentioning her "power and dignity" he doesn't say much else about the voice. And what does he mean by "dignity"? If he means a quietness or reserve (say, opposite of "power"), then this completely agrees with the "sang so quietly", "Daphne mold" versus the "when she did allow her voice out at full volume", "Wagnerian-sized" comments of Midgette and Kennicott. If not, then what does he mean?

Anyway from these three reviews, I can safely believe that she was probably a bit wavering in her volume... whether that this was intentional due to moments in the opera (score or direction), I can't say since I'm going to see it for the first time next month. If it was intentional, people who do know the work might wonder what was the point of doing it that way or simply get the point. If it was not, then one can only hope that later performances will be better. (Especially so, considering the opening night semi-drama of Lindskog's scratch.)

My main point here is that the details, the facts, in conflicting reviews very often agree entirely. (I think they do with Rotz as well.) It's how those details are shared and how the individual reviewers reacted to what happened that are different. A reviewer is valuable to the reader when the reader, instead of seeking validation for their own reactions, can gleam enough facts from a review to know what happened AND when the reader has enough understanding of a particular reviewer's quirks to decifer how the reader's reactions mesh with the reviewer's opinions. Of course, that's just how I feel; others may and do feel differently.

Posted by: prokaryote | October 26, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

@Prokaryote: Nothing to add, but I think that's a very good analysis. I'm also going late in the season. I tend to agree with Midgette more than the Wash Times, so it'll be interesting to see how it goes down.

Posted by: ianw2 | October 27, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

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