Saturday, March 13, 2010

Boston Lyric Opera's "Ariadne auf Naxos"

Last night I saw a wonderful production of Ariadne auf Naxos by the Boston Lyric Opera. The singers were superb, and the sets intriguing. It was very interesting to note the parallels with Wagner's music. For instance, the nymphs' music recalls that of the Rhinemaidens, and they even sing of waves. There is also talk of a magic potion and the conflation of love and death, as in Tristan und Isolde.

Further, the Composer's music and ideas bear a strong resemblance to those of Wagner. The librettist, Hofmannstahl, probably intended this idealistic and grave character to be a parody of Wagner. Interestingly, though, I think this is only a half-hearted parody, as the music of Ariadne and Bacchus is so beautiful and entrancing, utterly Wagnerian.

Strauss and Hofmannstahl have one foot in burlesque, and the other firmly planted in the romantic world. It is as if the two artists couldn't make up their minds about what opera should be, serious or merely entertaining. The compromise they worked out, surprisingly, is very effective, and the two plots run along in parallel very nicely.

This opera offers something for everyone, slapstick comedy as well as serious mythological themes.

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