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Strauss' Ariadne Auf Naxos

3 hours
First broadcast:
Saturday 20 February 2010

Live from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Greek tragedy collides with the mischief-making of the commedia dell'arte in Richard Strauss's opera-within-an-opera Ariadne auf Naxos, conceived in collaboration with the librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The fabulous Swedish soprano Nina Stemme takes the title role, with Kathleen Kim as the ever-pragmatic Zerbinetta, and Sarah Connolly as the naive young Composer. Strauss's music combines pathos and wit in this inventive piece.

At the house of a Viennese nobleman, a new opera 'Ariadne auf Naxos' is to be performed, followed by an Italian comedy, but it is announced that both plays will have to be performed simultaneously due to time restrictions.

In the opera itself, Ariadne has been abandoned on the island of Naxos by Theseus. She longs for death, but Zerbinetta tries to persuade her to replace her love for Theseus with another, as it is only human to change an old love for a new one.

Presented by Margaret Juntwait with guest commentator Ira Siff. Live backstage interviews during the interval.

Ariadne: Nina Stemme (soprano)
Zerbinetta: Kathleen Kim (soprano)
Composer: Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano)
Bacchus: Lance Ryan (tenor)
Music Master: Jochen Schmeckenbecher (baritone)
Najade: Anne-Carolyn Bird (soprano)
Dryade: Tamara Mumford (mezzo-soprano)
Echo: Erin Morley (soprano)
Dancing Master: Tony Stevenson (tenor)
Brighella: Sean Panikkar (tenor)
Scaramuccio: Mark Schowalter (tenor)
Harlequin: Markus Werba (baritone)
Kirill Petrenko - conductor
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

  • Ariadne


    Nina Stemme as Ariadne

    Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

  • Zerbinetta


    Kathleen Kim as Zerbinetta

    Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

  • The Composer

    The Composer

    Sarah Connolly as the Composer

    Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

  • Bacchus


    Lance Ryan as Bacchus

    Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

  • Harlekin


    Markus Werba as Harlekin

    Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

  • Zerbinetta and the Composer

    Zerbinetta and the Composer

    Kathleen Kim as Zerbinetta and Sarah Connolly as the Composer

    Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

  • Ariadne and Zerbinetta

    Ariadne and Zerbinetta

    Nina Stemme as Ariadne and Kathleen Kim as Zerbinetta

    Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

  • Ariadne and Bacchus

    Ariadne and Bacchus

    Nina Stemme as Ariadne and Lance Ryan as Bacchus

    Photo: Marty Sohl/Metroplitan Opera

  • Zerbinetta, Harlekin and Ariadne

    Zerbinetta, Harlekin and Ariadne

    Kathleen Kim as Zerbinetta, Markus Werba as Harlekin and Nina Stemme as Ariadne

    Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

  • Synopsis - Prologue

    Vienna, 18th century. In the house of a rich Viennese, preparations are in progress for the performance of a new opera seria, “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

    The major-domo enters to inform the music master that immediately after the opera an Italian comedy will be performed, followed by a fireworks display in the garden.

    The outraged music master replies that the composer, his young pupil, will never tolerate that, but the major-domo is unimpressed by his objections and leaves.

    When the composer appears, hoping for a last-minute rehearsal, a disdainful servant tells him that the musicians are still playing dinner music.

    Suddenly the tenor rushes from his dressing rooom, arguing with the wigmaker. The prima donna furiously comments on the presence of the comedy troupe and their leading lady, Zerbinetta.

    In the middle of the confusion, the major-domo returns with an announcement: in order for the fireworks to begin on time, the opera and the comedy are to be performed simultaneously.

    General consternation soon gives way to practical reactions. The dancing master suggests cutting the opera’s score.

    The music master persuades the despairing composer to do so, while the two lead singers independently urge him to abridge the other’s part.

    Meanwhile, Zerbinetta gives her troupe a briefing on the opera’s plot. Ariadne, they are told, has been abandoned by her lover Theseus on the island of Naxos, where she now waits for death.

    Zerbinetta, however, claims that all Ariadne really needs is a new lover. When the composer vehemently disagrees, Zerbinetta begins to flirt with him. Suddenly the young man finds new hope.

    Filled with love and enthusiasm for his work, he passionately declares music the greatest of all the arts (“Musik ist eine heilige Kunst”). But when he catches sight of the comedians, ready to go on stage, he realizes with horror what he has agreed to.

    He blames the music master for the artistic debacle and runs off.

  • The Opera

    Ariadne is alone in front of her cave. Three nymphs look on and lament her fate.

    Watching from the wings, the comedians are doubtful whether they will be able to cheer her up.

    Ariadne recalls her love for Theseus (“Ein Schönes war”), then imagines herself as a chaste girl, awaiting death. Harlekin tries to divert her with a song (“Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen”) but Ariadne ignores him.

    As if in a trance, she resolves to await Hermes, messenger of death. He will take her to another world where everything is pure (“Es gibt ein Reich”).

    When the comedians’ efforts continue to fail, Zerbinetta finally addresses Ariadne directly (“Grossmächtige Prinzessin!”), woman to woman, explaining to her the human need to change an old love for a new.

    Insulted, Ariadne leaves.

    After Zerbinetta has finished her speech, her colleagues leap back onto the scene, competing for her attention.

    Zerbinetta gives in to Harlekin’s comic protestations of love and the comedians exit.

    The nymphs announce the approach of a ship: it carries the young god Bacchus, who has escaped the enchantress Circe.

    Bacchus’s voice is heard in the distance (“Circe, kannst du mich hören?”) and Ariadne prepares to greet her visitor, whom she thinks must be death at last.

    When he appears, she at first mistakes him for Theseus come back to her, but he majestically proclaims his godhood. Entranced by her beauty, Bacchus tells her he would sooner see the stars vanish than give her up.

    Reconciled to a new existence, Ariadne joins Bacchus as they ascend to the heavens. Zerbinetta sneaks in to have the last word: “When a new god comes along, we’re dumbstruck.”



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