Various - Richard Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos - The Guardian

Ariadne auf Naxos is perhaps the ultimate opera about opera. High art versus low art, lofty creative goals versus the demands of a wealthy patron, clashing divas, last-minute changes … all are encapsulated in the two and a half hours of Strauss’s prologue plus opera-within-an-opera. It’s all so meta, especially those last-minute changes demanded by the patron which assume a particular relevance at present.

Lightly staged by Louisa Muller for a short run at the festival this was really a concert performance with movement, the only props to speak of a bench and a quartet of inflatable palm trees. Not that most of the socially distanced audience would have been able to see any finer details in the expanse of the EIF marquee at any rate. Here it was left to the music to do the communicating, and, shorn of distractions of scenery and staging, it managed this admirably.

Strauss’s opera centres on the trio of female leads – the Composer (Catriona Morison), the comic actor Zerbinetta (Brenda Rae) and the titular heroine of the opera within the opera, sung by Dorothea Röschmann. Morison’s lovely burnished mezzo was presented to great effect in the prologue, while Röschmann brought drama to the lovelorn Ariadne. However, it was Rae’s coquettish, radiant Zerbinetta whose aria – as usual – stole the show.

With a notable cameo appearance from Thomas Quasthoff in the spoken role of the Major-Domo and a sensitive orchestral accompaniment from Lothar Koenigs and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra this was an engaging performance and a fitting end to a most unusual of Edinburgh festivals.

The Guardian
30 August 2021