COMPOSERS: JG Conradi
ALBUM TITLE: Ariadne
PERFORMER: Karina Gauvin, James Taylor, Jan Kobow, Ellen Hargis; Boston Early Music Festival Chorus & Orchestra/Paul O’Dette (theorbo), Stephen Stubbs (lute, baroque guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: 777 073-2
Johann Georg Conradi became director of Hamburg’s Gänsemarkt Theatre in 1690, where his earliest and only surviving opera for the Hamburg stage, Die schöne und getreue Ariadne (to give it its full title), was premiered in 1691. The libretto, by Christian Heinrich Postel, is based on a version of the Greek myth of Minos’s daughter Ariadne and her love for Theseus after he delivered Crete from the Minotaur. Though Theseus eventually abandons her, the ‘happy ending’ is assured by Bacchus who, after revealing his true identity, joins with Ariadne in a heavenly union.
Conradi’s pleasing music draws upon Italian, German and, very markedly in this opera, French styles. The overture, for instance, is in classic Lully style, as indeed is the splendid concluding Passacaille for soloists, chorus and, one supposes dancers, too. The mainly strong cast is headed by the fine Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin. Barbara Borden’s Phaedra, though, is less secure and sometimes sounds pinched in the uppermost notes of her register. The lyrical declamation of James Taylor’s Theseus is affecting and Marek Rzepka’s regal Minos is splendid. Matthew White (Bacchus) and Ellen Hargis (Pasiphae and Venus) bring contrasting colours to their respective roles and Jan Kobow pleasingly enlivens the personality of Pamphilius, Theseus’s loyal servant. A well-groomed chorus and a stylish instrumental ensemble overseen by Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs sets the seal on a fascinating and worthwhile issue. Nicholas Anderson