Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ariadne Auf Naxos – Zürich 2006 (Part 3: More Questions than Answers)

When the curtain opens on the “Opera” proper, we are in a replica of an actual Zurich restaurant.

  • Are we literally in the restaurant, or is this the set for the Opera?
  • Do we feel sad for Ariadne’s plight, or do we admire the Prima Donna’s artistry?
  • Are we supposed to know that the servers are the comedians and nymphs? Is that part of the Opera or is it "opera"?
  • The nymphs later are patrons in the restaurant. Is this literal, or are we supposed to understand this as part of the theatrical experience?
  • The comedians each play three roles in the Opera (or opera.) Do we take note of this, or are we not supposed to realize they are the same people?
  • It's played very realistically. but just how literally are we supposed to be taking this restaurant scene?
For the three major set pieces (Ein schönes war, Es gibt ein Reich, & Großmächtige Prinzessin), the background action more or less freezes.  This part seems like opera. Unlike in most productions, the Composer appears in each of these sequences, looking zombie-like; he is more or less visible only to the person singing.  He final walk-through is during Bacchus’ big scene. There, both characters acknowledge each other and the Composer smiles. Is he telling the Tenor, “Nice job!” or is he saying, “Yay, my Opera worked!” or is he acknowledging the Bacchus side of his personality, or what?

The Comedians do their best to cheer Ariadne the first time around (not counting Harlekin’s little arietta). I appreciate her interactions with them. She makes a tiny effort, but it’s as if their joy makes her even sadder. The second big comedian scene is more threatening. Are they attacking Zerbinetta? She does seem still to mostly be in control though.  

The "good" comedians try to cheer up Ariadne.

Zerbinetta and Ariadne seem close to becoming BFFs – if only Ariadne didn’t want to die. They each seem to see the truth in the other’s life and philosophy. They really are just two facets of the Composer – and of us. Isn’t each of us looking for that one special person who will complete our life? Zerbinetta, via serial monogamy, keeps looking. Ariadne, via obsessive-compulsive behavior, just waits.
Ariadne dies in this version. The Composer insists during the Prologue he knows Ariadne dies. Maybe this is why he never wrote anything for her to sing at the very end.  She is either dead figuratively, by giving herself totally to Bacchus, or she is dead literally. She thinks he is the god of death, so she takes her pills to hasten the transition.

Not much outright comedy in this production, 
but I love the look the Nymphs give each other 
on Bacchus' "handmaidens" line.

Is Bacchus a hero, or some opportunistic small-time con man? He wanders in looking for Circe. He realizes Ariadne is not Circe, but follows her lead and plays along. When they kiss, he can tell something is wrong; for some reason, he checks out the jewlry she left on her table, and grins. Is this why he sings that her sorrows have made him rich? That’s pretty literal, isn’t it? (And kind of dumb, in my opinion – one major misstep in this scene.)
So, Ariadne dies; Bacchus sings; Tenor helps Prima Donna get up from the floor. Music Teacher, Dance Master, and Major Domo all enter (in slow motion) to congratulate the singers, as final music plays and  the white curtain falls on the Opera. Then the real curtain falls at the end of the opera.  What just happened?
In conclusion, I love this production. The singing, playing, and conducting on this disc are all top notch. And since I still am working on a clearer understanding of it, I really enjoy going back and watching – either all the way through, or re-viewing just certain scenes.  

Whether or not you are convinced by Guth’s message, or can even figure it out, I think this opera worth a look and a listen. For me it ranks as Guth’s most watchable and (believe it or not) his least weird staging I have seen (so far.) Highly recommended!

Read Part 1 Here
Read Part 2 Here

1 comment:

  1. I recently saw this production on Mezzo TV and I think you hit the nail on the head in your comments. I was shocked to find another Guth production I liked.


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