Ariadne auf Naxos is perhaps the most inventive opera by composer Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the successful duo behind Der Rosenkavalier and Elektra. It's a bundle of genres and entanglements, a play within a play, a battle for the audience's attention between the "high" and "low" arts. Opera Ballet Vlaanderen presents this celebrated, late-Romantic gem in a concert performance.
In the palazzo of Vienna's wealthiest upstart, the steward is in a dire situation. No fewer than two opera companies have been engaged for the post-culinary entertainment of his master's guests. The first is a farcical mess in line with the opera buffa tradition, led by the feisty Zerbinetta. The second is a rather exalted company – complete with prima donna, tenor, composer ... – that intends to perform a serious opera about the myth of Ariadne. Dinner is running late, as these things go, and the fireworks later in the evening absolutely cannot wait. Therefore, the steward announces that the two groups will have to perform at the same time. And that's just the beginning.
With this ingenious plot, Strauss and Von Hofmannsthal furnish Ariadne auf Naxos with all the theatrical and musical ingredients for success. Interspersed between the plot developments, Strauss weaves musical gems with which many a soprano has become immortal. Think of Zerbinetta's virtuoso "Grossmächtige Prinzessin" or Ariadne's moving "Ein Schönes war".