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Ensemble

A night to remember

RODERIC DUNNETT is impressed by
Strauss's 'Ariadne auf Naxos' at Covent Garden

 

Bernard Haitink's farewell, conductor Maurizio Benini's and director Marco Arturo Marelli's excitingly setted, musically bracing Bellini Sonnambula, with not just Elena Kesselidi's Amina on fine form but a characteristically commanding Count Rodolfo (that latter day Don Alfonso) from Alastair Miles and trumpeting Elvino from Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flores; Matthias Goerne's recent Wozzeck; the visually and orchestrally effective Sophie's Choice; plus Vesselina Kasarova's Cenerentola to come : the Royal Opera House has been on pretty hot form of late.

Rarely more so than in Christof Loy's vital staging of Ariadne auf Naxos, the first show to be conducted by the Royal Opera's youthful British-born Italian-American incumbent, Antonio Pappano (who went on to conduct Wozzeck, and who has already worked countless wonders -- including with Loy on Der Rosenkavalier -- at Brussels's main Opera House, the still buoyant La Monnaie).

Petra Lang as Ariadne (left) and Marlis Petersen as Zerbinetta (right) with Echo (Rachel Nicholls, centre) and the drolls in Christof Loy's 2002 Royal Opera House production of Strauss's 'Ariadne auf Naxos', designs by Herbert Murauer. Photo © Arena PAL/Royal Opera House
Petra Lang as Ariadne (left) and Marlis Petersen as Zerbinetta (right) with Echo (Rachel Nicholls, centre) and the drolls in Christof Loy's 2002 Royal Opera House production of Strauss's 'Ariadne auf Naxos', designs by Herbert Murauer. Photo © Arena PAL/Royal Opera House

This unceasingly wonderful Ariadne was Covent Garden opera at its most scintillating, from the first (and astonishing) visual coup near the start, when designer Herbert Murauer, having established Christopher Quest's gloriously meticulous Major Domo in his plush entry hall, ratchets up the entire stage -- yes, as with Sophie's Choice, the Covent Garden machinery, so doomed in Haitink's opening Falstaff, worked a treat -- to reveal a locker room basement below, in which the hapless singers and actors huddle in suitably shapeless -- but terrifically well plotted -- melées, scattered round the set like melancholy cast-off props. The opera never really looked back from that moment : all else was plain (Aegean) sailing.

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Copyright © 15 December 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

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