Ariadne Auf Naxos

Richard Strauss & Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
In repertoire
(2004)

There may be one plot too many - perhaps even one set too many. No one, however, would deny that Royal Opera's revival of Christof Loy's 2002 production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne Auf Naxos is throughout beautifully sung.

The total effect, inspired by Colin Davis's magical, understated baton, is spellbinding. Recaptured by associate director John Fulljames, Ariadne Auf Naxos is, even by.librettist Hugo von Hoffmannsthal's standards, a complex affair. Neither is it for those seeking a tuneful guide to Greek mthythology.

Don't expect to be greatly enlightened about the affairs of Ariadne and Theseus - though the experience of learning nothing has to be enjoyed to be believed!

The prologue is minutes before a new opera is performed at the (unseen) patron's house with the real interval followed by the "opera" mixed with cabaret entertainment.

Those who heard Susan Graham's Octavian at Covent Garden will know what to expect and are not disappointed by her passionate young Composer who "even at this late stage finds things he wants to change". A fine performance, too, by Richard Margison as Bacchus.

But the thrill of the evening is from Diana Damrau's brilliant Zerbinetta. This exceptional piece of coloratura singing has the house in raptures, almost restoring the nowadays neglected encore to popular favour.

Solo work apart, there is some fine ensemble singing from all the principals as the performance basks in a brilliant score delivered almost unobtrusively.

Herbert Murauer's design totally facilitates the strange story mixing back-stage tantrums with poetic muse and features a remarkable transition from ground floor to basement, a promise that is not developed in the more sober second act.

Whatever Ariadne and her gods are up to, it is certainly worth hearing about.

"Ariadne Auf Naxos" will be performed at The Royal Opera on 26th and 28th June and on 1st, 5th, 7th and 9th July at 7.30 pm.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole