R Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

WORKS: Ariadne auf Naxos
PERFORMER: Camilla Nylund, Brenda Rae, Michael König, Claudia Mahnke, Elizabeth Reiter, Katharine Magiera, Maren Favela, Daniel Schmutzhard, Michael McCown, Alfred Reiter, Martin Mitterrutzner, Peter Marsh, Franz Grundheber, Kihwan Sim, Vuyani Mlinde, Ricardo Iturra, William Relton; Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra/Sebastian Weigle


Frankfurt’s live opera series on CD has put us in its debt with, for example, Wagner’s three early works. Oddly, though, pace-wise this account of Strauss’s curious hybrid – part serious classical mythology, part commedia dell’arte – is an infinitely less theatrical experience than many of the studio-recorded Ariadnes, and there isn’t a single member of the cast who comes anywhere close to the best on disc.

Let’s be charitable and assume that some came alive in Brigitte Fassbaender’s production: you can at least hear Claudia Mahnke warming to the teenage Composer’s ire and infatuation in the Prologue. But where’s the juice in any of Strauss’s female roles here? Brenda Rae’s Zerbinetta can manage the coloratura, but lacks the necessary diamond cut. Camilla Nylund sounds undernourished and begins the first of abandoned Ariadne’s two desert-island arias singing flat.

At least Michael König has the Heldentenor-ish stamina to get through the role of Bacchus with little strain, but there’s no glamour here, and Frankfurt music director Sebastian Weigle makes too many sclerotic indulgences to his lovers in the final scene. The orchestra clearly has good players and I’ve rarely heard more textural detail from the score – the sound would be admirable if it weren’t for the stage noise – but the flow is uneven and the comedy troupe lollops rather than sparkles through its interruptions of the serious opera.

Altogether, this is not a patch on the most recent CD Ariadne on Chandos, sung convincingly in English with real star singers headed by Christine Brewer, and a better sense of ensemble under the baton of Sir Richard Armstrong.


David Nice