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 is a tangle of genres and intrigues, a play-within-a-play, a battle between 'high' and 'low' arts. Opera Ballet Vlaanderen presents this celebrated, late-Romantic gem in a concert performance.
Vienna's richest man has engaged not one but two opera companies as after-dinner entertainment for his 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 and the fireworks cannot be delayed. Therefore, the steward announces that the two groups will have to perform at the same time. And that's just the beginning.
Thanks to this ingenious plot, Ariadne auf Naxos is equipped with every possible theatrical and musical ingredient for success. Interspersed between the plot developments, Strauss weaves compositional gems with which many a soprano has become immortal. Think of Zerbinetta's virtuoso 'Grossmächtige Prinzessin' or Ariadne's moving 'Ein Schönes war'.
Image: Tim Coppens