R Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos

WORKS: Ariadne auf Naxos
PERFORMER: Emily Magee, Elena Mosuc, Roberto Saccà, Michael Volle, Michelle Breedt, Alexander Pereira; Zurich Opera Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnànyi; dir. Claus Guth (Zurich 2006)
zurich Opera has some mighty weird Strauss productions on its hands though there’s more going on beneath the stylised surface pf tjos Ariadne than I found in Bechtolf’s Rosenkavalier (on DVD from EMI). Claus Guth replaces Hofmannsthal’s blend of backstage comedy, mythology and witty vaudeville with a chic, modern-dress nightmare – or rather two nightmaresL the Composer’s of the Prologue, and his operatic heroine’s terminating respectively in death by pistol and pills. There are no laughs, and plenty of question marks. Why are Ariadne’s nymph waitresses on the same middle-European restaurant staff as Zerbinetta and her troupe? Whe do the harlequins morph from players in the JAmes LAst Orchestra to a group of mullet haired German popstars? Is Roberto Saccàs David Hasselhoff-style God the double and emissar from the grave of the Composer, seen in the Prologue as the love-victim of both the Prima Donna and the Zerbinetta? I suspect only the director has the answers. In the meantime this uncomfortable mise en scène does at least draw characterisations of disturbing intensity, predictably so from Michelle Breedt’s incandescent composer and Emily Magee’s stricken Ariadne but also from the very human Zerbinetta, a performance of spoton musicianship and surprising dullness of tone from Elena Mosuc, and perhaps the best BAcchus we’re lifely to see today, Roberton Savva, who makes uniquely light work of his goflike rhapsofies. The traparent but harly twinkling delivery of the Zurich Opera Orchestra under dohnanyi fits the hard-edged production like a glove. There are no extras to shed light on the obscurities, and the sound – especially in the cavernous restaurant setting of the opera – can be harsh.