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Ariadne auf Naxos / Glyndebourne

This innovative production with significant changes of location and period from the original Richard Strauss Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s comedy does not entirely work but fine singing, stage sets and orchestration saved it from disaster. In brief, the first story is a troupe of Commedia del arte (light opera) are invited to play at a rich man’s palatial home to which a more serious opera company is putting on Ariadne auf Naxos.

Ariadne2It is clash of two cultures which is not resolved when the butler says that both the performances should take place concurrently.

It is light, frothy and fun. Yet there are substantial issues of artistic integrity and independence , patronage of the arts by the rich and diva temperamental behaviour which are relevant today.

Then at the end of the first act the house is bombed. In case you did not realise it from the costumes we are in World War Two.

Ariadne3The second section which in the original was set on the island for Ariadne auf Naxos depicts the love of Ariadne for Thesues is now set in a hospital ward in the same country pile.

Ariadne is saved by Bacchus, now a airman. Frankly the director Katherine Thoma lost the plot in every sense.

The singing of Lise Davidsen, a competition winning soprano in the title role of Ariadne, saved the day and she was well supported by Erin Morley as a flighty Zerbinetta and AJ Gluckaert as Bacchus. Cornelius Meister conducted the London Philarmonic with brio. The singing is more recitative than grand aria and the language of German harsher than Italian or French.

GlyndeborneI thought our readers who may not have experienced Glyndebourne might be interested to know how and what it is.

The whole operation runs smoothly from the box office helpfulness to the catering company dispensing picnics managing with adverse conditions by changing the open air setting in relocating your table to a covered portico on the theatre concourse. The auditorium seats are comfortable, with cushion and good leg room. There was a greater security but, deep in the heart of Sussex, difficult for any terrorist to access.

GlyndebourneBest tickets are now not that more expensive than a West End show. To extend the argument of attendance to viewing, you can see this opera much cheaper at your local cinema but it would not be the same.

Most of all I enjoy the countryside feel arriving at Glyndebourne through the South Downs, or leaving the theatre in the night air washed by rain, rather than the crowded West End streets with people teeming out of pubs and traffic jams.

About Tim Holford-Smith

Despite running his architectural practice full-time, Tim is a frequent theatre-goer and occasional am-dram producer. More Posts