Ariadne Auf Naxos, while not my favourite Strauss opera, will always be special to me, having been the first opera I saw at 16 in The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden,I can't tell you how unforgettable that experience was.
Since then, I was eager to hear and watch other recordings and productions of this great work. And there are some great ones, for recordings there's Karajan's recording with Schwarzkopf and for productions/video productions there's the 1978 film which I love for Gruberova and the 1988 Met production which is also worth looking out for.
This 2003 Met production is outstanding, and perhaps my personal favourite Ariadne(productions wise) thus far. The costumes are beautifully tailored and the sets while not as lavish as the 1978 or 1988 productions are fine. The sound, picture quality and videography are also excellent.
Strauss' music is faultless, the orchestra are sensitive and dramatically involved and the conducting shows real commitment with few rushed or plodding tempos in sight.
The singing is also wonderful, my favourite being Natalie Dessay's outstanding Zerbinetta, not quite as good as Gruberova but I marginally prefer her to Kathaleen Battle. The colouratura is wondrous and the interpretation is delightfully coquettish.
Deborah Voight, like Janowitz and Norman, is very commanding and controlled here, she is a great artist and lets the wonderful melodies flow seamlessly. Susanne Mentzer is very good as the Composer, but I find myself more receptive to Tatiana Troyanos, while Wolfgang Brendel is an entertaining Music Master(on par I'd say with Walter Berry) and Major-Domo is a hoot.
If there is a performance I preferred here over both the 1978 and 1988 productions, it is that of the thankless yet very demanding role of Bacchus. In both those productions Bacchus was the weak link, Rene Kollo sang very well but was stiff and as much as I love James King he was vocally over-the-hill. I had no problem with Richard Margison, not only does he sing powerfully and accurately but he also isn't afraid to act.
Overall, an outstanding production. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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