Having just purchased and watched the very fine Karl Boehm-conducted video with Gundula Janowitz (Ariadne) and Edita Gruberova (Zerbinetta), I figured there was no chance of finding a DVD version of this magnificent opera that was better cast. Little did I know! Jessye Norman elevates the role of Ariadne to an entirely more exciting and powerful level. Her performance of "Es gibt ein Reich" is downright explosive and must be heard (and seen up close) in this video to be believed. Her transformation near the end of the opera, with James King as Bacchus, is equally enthralling -- and King is no slouch either. The rest of the cast is mostly strong too, and Levine clearly conducts the piece con amore. Until recently, I hadn't paid much attention to "Ariadne auf Naxos" since the late 1970s and early 1980s, but my re-acquaintance with it makes me wonder if it is not Strauss's ultimate operatic masterpiece. (I know, I know . . . what about "Salome" and "Rosenkavalier"? An embarrassment of riches, that's what it is.)
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