09 May, 2011

Concert Review: MET-Ariadne auf Naxos

Ariadne and the 3 nymphs (pic from NY Times)

Concert Review: MET-Ariadne auf Naxos

May 7, 2011, matinee, Metropolitan Opera
Richard Strauss-Ariadne auf Naxos-Fabio Luisi

While I love the voice, I am not an inveterate opera fan and often find myself listening to the orchestra more than the singers. My favorite operas are mostly in tortured German, Mozart's Zauberflote, Weber's Die Freishutz, Wagner and Strauss.

This time in NYC, I could not get tickets for the new Robert LePage production of the Ring (getting standing room, sold only on day of performance, is rather impractical for me) , and opted for this Strauss opera. I don't really like the duo tragic-comic nature of this opera, but I always found listening to Strauss' music highly rewarding. Another reason is the conductor Fabio Luisi, who has been making a name for himself in Strauss. There must be some reason why he was picked for a Strauss series with the Dresden orchestra, though I have never heard the recordings (on Sony).

What a splendid and elegant production this was! The island/cave in the opera and the three nymphs were just an eye opener; the busy prologue was also effectively staged. As a production, this one, dating from the 90's, is handily superior to the previous one, which I watched in the 80's. And this opera needs all the help it can get in staging!

My seat was just above the orchestra and it was a marvel to see the unusual reduced orchestra of 37 players; a bit like chamber opera but with keyboard and percussion emphasis. From wikipedia entry on this opera:


Luisi elicited a warm and clean sound from the orchestra, at turns tender or powerful as the music required. Yes, this conductor's reputation is the real thing!

As for the singing, I would refer you to the NYT review below. Gratifyingly, all singers sang with warm expression. For myself, I particularly liked Joyce DiDonato (the Octavian-like composer), who showed great promise in this trouser role. I also liked the crystalline quality of the voice of Kathleen Kim (Zerbinetta). The Ariadne, the huge Violeta Urmana, sang well in a smoky voice, though I would have welcome more tenderness and less gloom. Overall, the singing was not quite up to the level of past MET Strauss singers that I have heard (like Hildegard Behrens, Tatiana Troyanos, Jesse Norman, Maria Ewing, Reri Grist etc) but it was still very much an afternoon well spent.

NY Times review

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