Saturday, 1 April 2017

Richard Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos - Bayerische Staatsoper, Nationaltheater

Performance 29th March

After a while of absence I finally returned to Munich for some Strauss. His Ariadne is a work that shows us a plot within a plot and is also different when it comes to the size of the orchestra. Only a small chamber orchestra is playing music that clearly shows a lot of Mozartian inspiration. The production by Robert Carsen is very plain and does not feature a lot of stuff on the stage, but focuses on the interaction of the characters. I felt that he really struck a chord with his understanding of the different relations in this work. The simple stage by Peter Pabst and the also basic costumes by Falk Bauer supported this very unpretentious staging. Especially the great finale was really impressive with the intensive contrasts of the bright wall that came closer to the auditorium and the black costumes and stage that dominated the evening. Also the idea to let people appear in the auditorium and open the so-called 4th wall (between stage and auditorium) worked out very well.
Musically it was a very satisfying evening with some minor issues. Oksana Lyniv conducted a very plain performance which could have been a bit more passionate. Very often I had the feeling that she did not react to the singers onstage well enough. While having the orchestra under control most of the time there sometimes was a gap between the music from the pit and the singing from the stage. However she still did a solid job and the Bayerisches Staatsorchester showed great musicality. The orchestra sounded brilliant and there was a clear balance between the different sections.
The highlight of the evening were the singers of the performance. Every single role was performed on a very high level. Markus Meyer gave a wonderul Haushofmeister with extremely clear and expressive diction. The many small roles were cast appropriately and showed the level of the Bayerische Staatsoper. The male quartet around Zerbinetta (Harlekin, Scaramuccio, Truffaldin & Brighella) was perfectly sung by Sean Michael Plumb (very nice and beautifully sounding baritone), Dean Power (almost overcast with his elegant youthful tenor voice), Andreas Wolf and Matthew Grills. The female trio of the nymphs (Najade, Dryade & Echo) was sung by Elsa Benoit (beautiful clear top), Okka von der Damerau (what a luxurious choice for that role) and Anna Virovlansky. Jörg Schneider sang a powerful and bright Tanzmeister that could  have sung much more and Eike Wilm Schulte was a wonderful Musiklehrer who showed great understanding and experience in his role. Tara Erraught gave her debut as Komponist and did a solid job with it. Her bright mezzo voice could have a fuller sound and a warmer timbre for this role, but she compensated this with a passionate and convincing performance.
The role of Bacchus was sung by Burkhard Fritz who is definitely one of the most relying heroic tenors of our times. He seems not to be afraid of any high notes and he mastered this really challenging role without any problems. His tenor voice combines a dark heroic timbre with a very clear and soft top register.
Zerbinetta was performed by Jane Archibald who gave a stunning performance. Her bright and focused soprano seems to be perfect for the coloraturas and cheeky ornaments of this role. She sang everyhing with ease and even seemed to have fun doing the role. Her famous aria was done really well and earned her an intensive wave of applause. Brava!
Finally, the title role was sung by famous soprano Karita Mattila who also gave a very impressive performance. Her dark but still soft soprano voice combines great power with a magnificent full-bodied timbre that suits the role perfectly. No matter if she is supposed to sing loud or soft, Mattila fulfilled everything the role is calling for and really convinced with her performance. Definitely the best Ariadne I ever heard live so far!
Alltogether it was a lovely evening that really impressed with a nice production and marvelous singing. Therefor I can give 9 stars to Ariadne in Munich.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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