Argentina R. Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos: Soloists and Orchestra / Alejo Pérez (conductor), Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 31.7.2019. (JSJ)
Direction – Marcelo Lombardero
Sets – Diego Siliano
Costumes – Luciana Gutman
Lighting – José Luis Fiorruccio
Prima Donna/Ariadne – Carla Filipcic Holm
Tenor/Bacchus – Gustavo López Manzitti
Composer – Jennifer Holloway
Zerbinetta – Ekaterina Lekhina
Music Master – Hernán Iturralde
Dance Master – Pablo Urban
Harlequin – Luciano Garay
Brighella – Santiago Martinez
Truffaldino – Iván Garcia
Naiad – Laura Pisani
Dryad – Florencia Machado
Echo – Victoria Gaeta
Very much a high point of the Teatro Colón’s current season is the new local production of Strauss’s ‘opera within an opera’, Ariadne auf Naxos. While one of the more accessible of Strauss’s operas, it is still relatively little performed in some parts: this was my first encounter with it and the last Colón production was as far back as 1993. And it lived up to the expectation.
The work is essentially in two parts, the first, the Prologue, the organising and preparation at the behest of a wealthy individual of an opera and dance for his dinner guests. But the dinner overruns and to ensure the guests are ready for the later firework display, some cuts must be made, leading to disagreements between the opera composer, the music and dance masters and the members of the respective casts.
The second part is the presentation of the entertainment, with the opera based on the legend of Ariadne on Naxos.
The work is set in Vienna but in this production, and controversially to some, it was moved to a modern sunny, sea view location, which one takes to be Greece. It opens to a large well-lit drawing room, opulent in style but with the minimum of furnishings and given further realism with movement of people beyond the window. In contrast, the second part then moves to an ornate mini stage flanked by a pair of boxes in the same location, which was finally dismantled to make way for the fireworks with the blurring of the Prima Donna/Ariadne and Tenor/Bacchus identities – a reflection of ‘life imitating art’ – as they continued to sing of their love for each other.
The contrasts were further carried over in the dress in this second part, although less happily with that of the opera singers’ period to the point of ridicule and the song troupe as guitar playing and dancing rock singers and Zerbinetta, its leader, a parody of Madonna.
Musically the production was in the hands of Alejo Pérez, who brought a correct reading of the colourful and melodic score.
The cast, like the production, was a local one, apart from the role of the Composer, which was well sung by America mezzo Jennifer Holloway and that of Zerbinetta. Russian soprano Ekaterina Lekhina gave a brilliant account of her famous aria ‘Grossmächtige Prinzessin’ but came across as somewhat brittle in her acting.
As the Prima Donna – with her poodle in the Prologue – and Ariadne, Carla Filipcic Holm brought power and beauty of line to the role and Gustavo López Manzitti was up to the demands of the Tenor and Bacchus. Hernán Iturralde was a solid Music Master and likewise Pablo Urban as the Dance Master and the three players – Luciano Garay, Santiago Martinez, Iván Garcia – and three nymphs – Laura Pisani, Florencia Machado, Victoria Gaeta – well played their respective roles.
Jonathan Spencer Jones