[Met Performance] CID:330006

Ariadne auf Naxos
Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, September 24, 1997

Debut : Gregory Turay, Sandra Moon, Thomas Studebaker

Ariadne auf Naxos (64)
Richard Strauss | Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Deborah Voigt

Thomas Moser

Natalie Dessay

Music Master
Wolfgang Brendel

Mark Oswald

Philip Creech

Eric Halfvarson

Gregory Turay [Debut]

Joyce Guyer

Jane Bunnell

Sandra Moon [Debut]

Nico Castel

Thomas Studebaker [Debut]

Dancing Master
Heinz Zednik

John Fiorito

James Courtney

James Levine

Elijah Moshinsky

Michael Yeargan

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Stage Director
Laurie Feldman

Susanne Mentzer

Ariadne auf Naxos received seven performances this season.

Revival a gift of Francis Goelet

Review 1:

Martin Bernheimer in Newsday
A Daring Dessay Steals The Show in “Ariadne”

Her name is Natalie Dessay. You probably won't be allowed to forget it.

The soprano from Lyons, France, made an auspicious but quiet debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1994 gurgling the ornamental coloratura of the Fiakerrmilli in Richard Strauss' "Arabella." Wednesday night she was back, this time as Zerbinetta in the seasonal premiere of the same composer's "Ariadne auf Naxos." Without even seeming to try, she offered a legitimate demonstration of performance larceny.

Dessay didn't do anything vulgar, self-centered or esthetically inappropriate. Au contraire. She actually dared underplay one of the most extrovert and intricate challenges in the high-flying repertory. She underplayed it, however, with dazzling, sophisticated, subtly erotic panache, and virtually redefined the stock character in the process.

Most sopranos portray Zerbinetta, the resident commedia-dell'arte femme fatale, as a cutesy clown with vocal dimples. They make her prim artificially sweetened and terminally adorable. More woman than girl and much too smart to be arch, Dessay capitalized on unaffected Gallic elegance and on sensuality that never called attention to itself. She made the eternal soubrette a wide-eyed, full-blooded, full-throated creature, whimsical about her casual wiles and blasé about her stunning virtuosity. Virtuosity? With unusually vibrant tone, a range that accommodates the loftiest ascents with laughing ease, a technique that actually permits the addition of pinpoint trills in extremis, she transformed a 15-minute obstacle-course aria into a giddy, multifaceted essay on human frailty. It ended much too soon.

Although no one else on the stage was quite in the same exalted class, this was an “Ariadne" worth cherishing. Elijah Moshinsky's clever production of 1993, now directed by Laurie Feldman, still brings realistic poetry to the prologue and surreal fantasy to the opera proper. Michael Yeargan's atmospheric sets still second every motion with style.

James Levine conducted on Tuesday with abiding warmth, neatly underscoring both the sprightly comedy and the would-be tragedy. Although she might toy a bit more with light and shade, Deborah Voigt bathed the pathos of the title role in Wagnerian opulence, and found a nice sense of satire to counter the essential heroic nobility. Like many a tenor before him, Thomas Moser came close to strangling on the excruciating tessitura of Bacchus (the blame rests with Strauss), but he did what he could with dignity and musicality. As the Composer in the prologue — a role best suited to full-fledged sopranos like Lotte Lehmann, Sena Jurinac and Irmgard Seefried — Susanne Mentzer, a mezzo-soprano, found the high climaxes something of a strain, but her expressive urgency saved the night.

Splendid cameos in the uniformly strong ensemble were contributed by Wolfgang Brendel as the troubled Music Master, Mark Oswald as the gentle Harlekin, Nico Castel as the officious Major Domo, and Heinz Zednik as a Dancing Master who has seen it all.

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