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But the production remains popular and successful. The reason why we forgive Loy for his rather puzzling take on the opera, I think, is that he gets great performances out of his performers. Within his own prescribed framework his personen regie is very fine indeed and working with a cast such as the one the Royal Opera fielded on 9 July 2004, everyone achieved a superb performance.

Diana Damrau as Zerbinetta in 'Ariadne auf Naxos' at Covent Garden. Photo © 2004 Clive Barda
Diana Damrau as Zerbinetta in 'Ariadne auf Naxos' at Covent Garden. Photo © 2004 Clive Barda

In the prelude, Dale Duesing was a superbly emotive, down at heel Music Master and John Graham-Hall repeated his wonderful Dancing Master. But all eyes were on Susan Graham as the Composer. Rarely have I heard the part so beautifully and so well sung. Graham depicted a passionate young man using both visual and musical resources in harmony. The part sits well in her voice and she gave us richly honeyed tone throughout the range. Not since Janet Baker have I heard the composer's closing aria sung so passionately and so musically. But Graham was not alone and the entire cast gave a strong ensemble performance in this act, notable as ever was the Major Domo of Christoph Quest relishing the German (spoken) text. Diana Damrau built on the good impressions that she has made here in previous roles, including Fiakermilli and the Queen of the Night; she has both the voice and the sexiness required for the part in this role. She and Graham developed an uncertain flirty relationship. One of the fascinations of the opera is the way Strauss has developed his characters backstage in the retro-fitted prologue and how the Composer's and Zerbinetta's mutual curiosity and flirting mirrors the attempted rapprochement between Zerbinetta and Ariadne in the opera itself.

Anne Schwanewilms as Ariadne and Diana Damrau as Zerbinetta. Photo © 2004 Clive Barda
Anne Schwanewilms as Ariadne and Diana Damrau as Zerbinetta. Photo © 2004 Clive Barda

 

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Copyright © 17 July 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK

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