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Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos / Soile Isokoski, Laura Claycomb, Sergey Skorokhodov, Thomas Allen, Kate Lindsey. London PO, Jurowski (Glyndebourne, 2013) [Blu-Ray]

Notes & Reviews:

Director Katharina Thoma sets Richard Strauss's comedy in a country house in the South Downs (a surrogate for Glyndebourne), immediately before and during the Second World War. Hofmannsthals' conceit - that a hapless young composer has to accept the simultaneous performance of his new tragic opera with a burlesque from a commedia dell'arte troupe - is turned into a touching wartime drama of nurses, invalids, airmen - and of painful delusions and soul-searching, before final happiness

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 142 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: Blu-Ray, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM 2.0, DTS HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English, French, German, Korean


Gripping opera for Glyndebourne, with incredible music making from the London Philharmonic
This opera technically consists of two parts, the prologue and the “opera”. However, it is performed as one act, with the second part being an opera within the “opera”. The subject of the prologue is that there are two performances that are to occur at a rich man’s house in Vienna – one being an opera filled with depth and meaning that the Composer has poured his heart and soul into (stunningly portrayed by Kate Lindsey in a trouser role – she is *amazing*), and the second being a “comedy troupe” or more traditionally a burlesque troupe. The problem is that the Major Domo announces that the dinner for the guests is running late, and that both performances must therefore occur at the same time and finish on-schedule. Needless to say, this is greatly disturbing for the Composer who has created a work filled with meaning – and how Laura Claycomb’s Zerbinetta deals with it as the female “leader” of the burlesque troupe is something that really must be seen to be appreciated, as she appeals to the Composer with her feminine charms and gets him to agree to this sequence of events. What happens next (which is particularly interesting, given Glyndebourne’s history as a home for evacuee children during wartime) is an airstrike sending the entire evening into chaos.

The second part, set here in the 1940s, works marvelously well in the wartime setting as Ariadne is struck by the loss of her love and cannot imagine continuing on with her life. The role of Ariadne is stunningly portrayed by Soile Isokoski, who brings longing and mourning and frustration and all of the various facets of despair to the role. And when she meets Bacchus (not a god in this production – rather more of an ordinary man or wartime soldier), her transformation is heartfelt as her life regains meaning and purpose again. It is worth noting that Laura Claycomb’s Zerbinetta is not played here as a two-dimensional character – rather, her Zerbinetta deals with loss differently in a way that is neither better nor worse than Ariadne’s – it is just different and movingly human.

I continue to be astonished as to how much Blu-ray adds to opera performances – while nothing compares to experiencing opera live in-person, the level of detail and the incredible sound quality is wonderful indeed. It is worth noting how much the London Philharmonic brings Strauss’ sonic textures to life – and the fact that this is Vladimir Jurowski’s final production as Music Director makes this sweeter still. I was unfamiliar with this opera prior to receiving this recording, and I must say that I was glued to the performance all the way through. This is captivating work, filled with meaning that speaks to some of the underlying basics of human existence. I look forward to eventually seeing this opera in person, but I have no doubt that I will be re-watching this disc on more than one occasion. Very highly recommended!

Submitted on 09/01/14 by KlingonOpera 
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