Review: DVD captures modernized 'Ariadne' from Glyndebourne Festival

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Richard Strauss: “Ariadne auf Naxos” Glyndebourne Festival 2013. Opus arte

*** [out of 4*]

Coincidentally released during Summerfest’s run of this wonderful opera, Glyndebourne Festival’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” is an unusual concept staging by German director Katharina Thoma. Taking her cue from the locale of this venerated British festival, Ms. Thoma sets the prologue in 1940 in an English manor house, where a performance is about to take place. She presents the main act — the opera itself — in the same building, transformed a few months later into an army hospital because of the war.

'Ariadne auf Naxos'

Composer, setting, label: Richard Strauss, Glyndebourne Festival 2013 (Opus arte).

Ariadne, deserted by Theseus (or perhaps bereaved from his death in battle) has suffered a nervous breakdown. She is surrounded not by the nymphs of ancient Greek legend, but rather a trio of Red Cross nurses. And as the opera has it, a schedule snafu has made it necessary to perform the serious work simultaneously with the antics of a troupe of comedians.

One may disagree with Ms. Thoma’s dramatic revisions, but there can be little argument that the musical element, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, is first-rate. Finnish soprano Soile Isokowski, 56 when this was filmed, pours out effusive, creamy tones and grand phrases, while Laura Claycomb, familiar to Pittsburgh operagoers as Bellini’s Juliet and Donizetti’s Lucia, sails through the Zerbinetta’s fiendish coloratura with comic flair and an eclat that matches the explosive fireworks which bring this performance to a close. The rest of the cast is mostly unknown here, but uniformly excellent in context of this controversial, over-the-top rethinking of a major operatic masterpiece.

— Robert Croan, Post-Gazette senior editor



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