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<<  -- 3 --  Roderic Dunnett    A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

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Even by this point Pappano, a conductor who can astonish with dynamic range, had delivered us several unforeseen pianissimi which felt like noone else's. How Strauss benefited. Loy's back-up team was entertaining, both musically and visually, with John Graham Hall 's prancing master, the lively and colourful Zerbinetta of Marlis Peterson (a regular in the same role for Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf and Duisberg), Petra Lang's frumpy prima donna and Quest's Prussianly correct Major Domo cranking up a fine brand of sophisticated comedy to match Strauss's outrageous Wagner- (and everyone-) spoofing. Loy's chaotic-looking funnies -- Nathan Gunn, Timothy Robinson, Jeremy White and Barry Banks (Zerbinetta : 'We're just a jolly group who just happen to be on the island' : one looked like a motorbiking ex-rocker) -- were rarely overegged, just unendingly funny. It helps. Beate Vollack's little choreographed dances for them were genuinely entertaining.

Marlis Petersen as Zerbinetta (left) and Sophie Koch as The Composer in the Covent Garden production of 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. Photo © Arena PAL/Royal Opera House
Marlis Petersen as Zerbinetta (left) and Sophie Koch as The Composer in the Covent Garden production of 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. Photo © Arena PAL/Royal Opera House

Almost effortlessly we arrived, as if parachuted by helicopter, on Naxos. Murauer's Italianized landscape, somewhere around Poussin, worked well for the hapless Cretan princess's desert island (someone should do a Greek on this story : Strauss's parody itself invites further parody). Following the preliminary frolics of the three Nymphs (including Lisa Larsson, the Swedish soprano, making her début as Naiad and Alice Coote as a ringing voiced Dryad). Ariadne's first awakening was riveting (though not exactly blissful solitude, with the comic interrupters visibly sprawling around her island already. No wonder her slumbers are interrupted).

Marlis Petersen (Zerbinetta) hoist by the comics in the Covent Garden production of 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. Photo © Arena PAL/Royal Opera House
Marlis Petersen (Zerbinetta) hoist by the comics in the Covent Garden production of 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. Photo © Arena PAL/Royal Opera House

The music is almost a conspectus of mature Strauss, spanning Rosenkavalier and the Last Songs in one shimmering skein. American Nathan Gunn's Arlecchino, spiky-haired in battle fatigues, seized his moments well, artfully spiced, like Henze's Bacchic interludes, with Baroque melancholia; Echo's lovely undadorned mimicry (Rachel Nicholls) was another case of beautiful singing, blissfully apt for the role.

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Copyright © 15 December 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

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