Ariadne auf Naxos

by Richard Strauss
Opera in one act and a prelude
Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
in German with German subtitles
The story of Ariadne auf Naxos centers around a woman who mourns betrayal and loss of love whilst being forced to confront herself. When the easy-going Zerbinetta appears on the scene their meeting leads to the confrontation of »the woman who only loves once with the woman who loves many times”. (Hugo von Hofmannsthal). For the world premiere in 1912 in Stuttgart Strauss’ one-act-opera was combined with Molière's drama Der Bürger als Edelmann (The Civilian as Nobleman). But it was only when the authors decided to cut out the drama and to replace it with a new prelude, that Ariadne auf Naxos developed into one of the most popular operas by Richard Strauss.
Opera: approx. 80 min
Prelude: approx. 40 min
without Intermission
First performance 1912 in Stuttgart

This production's premiere
Recommended age
from grade 9
As Ariadne, forsaken by her beloved Theseus, gives herself over to her pain, the three nymphs Naiad, Dryad and Echo struggle to keep their composure. Awakening from an uneasy sleep, Ariadne seeks in vain to banish the memory, now a torment, of her love for Theseus. She is observed by a group of former theatrical entertainers, including Zerbinetta and Harlequin. Harlequin seeks to raise the lady’s spirits with a song but only intensifies her longing for Hermes, the messenger of death, who shall liberate her from the world. The troupe then tries to console Ariadne with an old number – to no avail. Zerbinetta sends the men away. She wants to be alone with Ariadne, whose pain she understands from her own experience. The intimacy that develops between the two women despite social barriers is shattered by Harlequin, who prevails over the other men by exploiting Zerbinetta’s dependence. The nymphs are relating the fate of the young Bacchus when he suddenly appears. He narrowly escaped the erotic enticements of the sorceress Circe. Now he approaches Ariadne in a state of profound confusion, suspecting her to be a sorceress as well. She first believes that Theseus has returned to her and then mistakes him for Hermes, herald of death. That misunderstanding allows the two to come together, leading to a mutual transformation: Prepared to die, Ariadne discovers in Bacchus’s arms a renewed capacity for love, while Bacchus becomes a man.
Sixteen unemployed singers in search of an opera. Their theater was bought many years ago by a private investor. His spokesman tries to motivate the artists to defy their economic constraints by redoubling their creativity. The singers, their powerlessness having left its mark on them, react with cynicism, self-hatred, defiance, rage, resignation and gallows humor. They recite an old piece from memory, the Prologue, in which they see their own situation reflected. In this piece a young composer’s opera, Ariadne, is dismantled: For added entertainment value, the patron demands that dance interludes be inserted. In her identification with the aims of the Prologue’s young composer, the mezzosoprano launches into his »Hymn to Music.«