<< -- 4 -- Roderic Dunnett A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
Would that Ariadne herself (the splendid-sounding German mezzo Petra
Lang, seen last season at the Royal Opera as Tristan and Isolde's
Brangane) could move as well as sing : her lament was blissfully doom-laden.
Still, stolidity fits the role : her prince, Dionysus-Bacchus, is not yet
come (and another, Theseus, has already scarpered). The perkiness of the
male 'comics', evenly matched, more than made up; so did the orchestra,
peppered in softer moments by Strauss's mutters of clarinet and deft whispers
of paired flutes (a foretaste of Berg to come).
Petra Lang in the title role of the Covent Garden production of 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. Photo © Arena PAL/Royal Opera House
The dances -- including a kind of polacca jigged a la Stravinsky
-- were wonderful, and Arlecchino's wan 'Jedoch' enchantment itself : like
the splendid Scaramuccio, Timothy Robinson, Gunn's Arlecchino -- he has sung
it at both Santa Fe and the Met -- revealed a wonderful singer on prime form
(though even Gunn was outdone, interestingly, by Aldeburgh's supremely inspired
and impossibly young, poised, vivacious and vocally gripping Canadian Jesse
Clark, who made the role wholly his own). 'An unfathomable heart beats in
both of us' : and to be sure, our hearts were pitter-patter with the antics
of these 'verschiedenen Menschen' as the male clowns and Peterson's agreeably
quirky Zerbinetta netted Ariadne into their world of forlorn optimism.
Marlis Petersen as Zerbinetta in the Covent Garden production of 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. Photo © Arena PAL/Royal Opera House
The build to Bacchus's arrival is one of Strauss's veritable masterpieces;
it proved one of Pappano's too. When the boozing god arrived (the US tenor
Robert Brubaker, as magnificent in mainstream romantic repertoire as he
is in John Adams) -- lucky girl -- there was no disappointment. And the score
is such fun : thereupon everyone goes musically wistful and mushy : the
girls move on from Schubertian Strauss to a new medley-parody of Brahms
and Mendelssohn, like a kind of Bourgeouis Gentilhomme gone mad.
An offstage trumpet joins a virtual onstage Blues : Strauss seems to be
parodying not just himself, but everything in sight.
Copyright © 15 December 2002
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK