<< -- 3 -- Roderic Dunnett A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
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
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
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.
Copyright © 15 December 2002
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK