Work of the Week - Richard Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos
When Ariadne auf Naxos is staged on 20 May 2013 in Stuttgart, a hundred years will have passed since its world premiere at the Stuttgarter Hoftheater. Spanning a bridge from its first run during the 1912/13 season to the present, stage designer Anna Viebrock uses the modern Großes Haus stage to recreate the original Kleines Haus, destroyed during WWII. The production by directors Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito will be conducted by Michael Schønwandt, the role Strauss himself fulfilled in the original production.
The process of writing Ariadne auf Naxos was a difficult one, and the relationship between librettist and composer was strained from the start. Originally, writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal had planned the work as a one-act opera, but Strauss did not approve of Hofmannsthal’s drafts and was reluctant to work on such a short piece. Hofmannsthal altered the drafts, but became increasingly irritated, and while editing Moliére’s comedic play "Le Bourgeois gentilhomme", he decided to replace a ballet embedded within the play with the short opera Ariadne. After many difficulties, this version was finally premiered in Stuttgart on 25 October, the mixture of play and opera convincing Strauss, but ultimately failing to engage the audience.
Hofmannsthal and Strauss decided to separate the opera from Moliére's comedy, adding a new prelude. This version, staged for the first time at the Hofoper Wien in 1916, is how Ariadne auf Naxos is usually performed today. Though Strauss retained minor doubts about the alterations, Hofmannsthal was confident of the opera's effect:
I know, I know it for sure: It belongs not with the audience of today, but the audience of tomorrow. - Hugo von Hofmannsthal
For the directing team of the Opera House Stuttgart this is the second production of the later version of Ariadne auf Naxos. Having successfully performed the prelude and opera separately at the Salzburger Festspiele, they will retain the concept in the Stuttgart production.
Ariadne auf Naxos will be performed on seven evenings in Stuttgart through the end of June. The opera is also on stage at the Staatstheater Wiesbaden and the Bayerische Staatsoper, and can be seen in concert on 14 June at Kongresshaus Garmisch-Partenkirchen with the orchestra of Vienna State Opera.
photo : Die Staatstheater Stuttgart / A.T. Schaefer
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