Ariadne auf Naxos is filled with sublime vocalism, enthralling melodies, and utterly beautiful orchestration, as shown in these selections from Youtube.
Ariadne: Ein Schönes war, hiess Theseus - Ariadne
The grieving princess Ariadne remembers her lover Theseus and longs for death as the members of the commedia dell'arte troupe look on in concern and bewilderment.
Ein Schöes war: hiess Theseus – Ariadne
Und ging im Licht und freute sich des Lebens
There was a thing of beauty. It was called Theseus – Ariadne
and walked in the light and rejoiced in life ...
Jessye Norman is Ariadne in this 1988 production from the Metropolitan Opera, conducted by James Levine.
With Kathleen Battle as Zerbinetta, Stephen Dickson as Harlequin, Anthony Laciura as Brighella, Allan Glassman as Scaramuccio, Artur Korn as Truffaldino, Barbara Bonney as Najade, Gweniet Bean as Dryade, Dawn Upshaw as Echo.
The commedia dell'arte troupe undertake to cheer up the grieving Ariadne. Here Harlequin sings a song, imploring her to give life a chance.
Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen,
Loving, hating, hoping, fearing,
every joy and every pain;
all these can the heart endure,
learn to live and love again.
But to feel no joy or anguish,
To be dead even to pain
That is fatal to your heart
You mustn't be like that to me.
Leave the looming shadows, falling,
meet whatever cares await;
life is waiting, love is calling,
let your sleeping heart awake!
Stephen Dickson is Harlequin in this 1988 production from the Metropolitan Opera, conducted by James Levine. With Kathleen Battle as Zerbinetta, Dawn Upshaw as Echo, and Jessye Norman as Ariadne
After the commedia dell'arte troupe try in vain to cheer up Ariadne, their leading lady Zerbinetta has a heart-to-heart chat with the despairing princess. Zerbinetta reminds her that all women suffer in love, but that the way to get through it is to move on: there's always another man in the wings. Zerbinetta lists some of her many lovers.
Each one came like a god
and his very step robbed me of speech ...
When he kissed my mouth and cheeks
I surrendered without a word.
Kathleen Battle is Zerbinetta in this 1988 production from the Metropolitan Opera, conducted by James Levine.
The Composer: Mut ist in mir, Freund!
This is the last part of the Composer's Aria at the end of the backstage Prologue. The Composer, a high-strung, idealistic young man, is outraged at the prospect of his serious opera sharing the stage with a vulgar farce, until he is utterly charmed by Zerbinetta, the flirtatious leader of the burlesque troupe. He is now overtaken by a new sense of life and joy ... until Zerbinetta dashes to the stage with her clowns, reality returns, and the Composer is crushed.
When Strauss decided to make the Composer a trousers role, Hofmannsthal was horrified: I thoroughly dislike the idea of a woman taking the role of the Composer. To prettify this character, which is supposed to embody spirituality and greatness, and so to turn him into a travesty of himself... I'm sorry, but I find this odious ... Oh God! If only I could make clear to you the essence, the spiritual meaning of these characters. On the other hand, I'm not so blind that I can't see what you want to avoid: the dreadful Tenor!
But Strauss dug his heels in, insisting that the opera already had enough tenors, and a baritone was inappropriate for a figure that he saw as a youthful Mozart. In the end, the angst-ridden Composer is in truth much more like Hofmannsthal than Strauss. And the character is one of the finest trousers roles since Cherubino, in an opera that, like Der Rosenkavalier, has three magnificent roles for women.
Strauss wrote the role of the Composer for a soprano, and many sopranos have sung the role, including the very first Composer, Lotte Lehmann. The role is now often sung by a mezzo soprano and is one of the most coveted roles in the mezzo repertoire.
Here the role is sung by soprano Sena Jurinac, in a performance recorded Live at the Kleines Festspielhaus, Salzburg, in August, 1965. Karl Böhm conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker, and Günther Rennert is the Stage Director.
Lotte Lehmann sings Ariadne's Aria
Strauss originally wrote the role of the composer for the famous soprano Marie Gutheil-Schoder. But when she missed a rehearsal, the understudy so impressed Strauss that he decided she would sing the role at the première of the 1916 version of the opera. That understudy – the first Composer – was Lotte Lehmann. The role made her a star, and she went on to create other roles in Strauss operas, including the Dyer's Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten in 1919, Christine in Intermezzo in 1924, and the title role in Arabella in 1933. She also sang all three major roles in Der Rosenkavalier.
Ms. Lehmann also sang three different roles in Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo in the original 1912 version; the Composer in the world première of the revised 1916 version, and later, the role of Ariadne. Here is a 1928 recording of Lotte Lehmann singing Ariadne's aria in which she longs for the peace of death.
Sie atmet leicht
Lightly she breathes, lightly she moves ... the day is soon to come ... when she can lie among the dead...
Es gibt ein Reich
There is a kingdom, where everything is pure:
It has also a name: Kingdom of the Dead.
Lotte Lehmann, Orchester der Staatsoper Berlin & Hermann Weigert
Interview with the stars of the 1916 première: Maria Jeritza (Ariadne), and Lotte Lehmann (the Composer)
Here is a fascinating interview with the first Ariadne, Maria Jeritza, and the first Composer, Lotte Lehmann. The two sopranos, who were bitter rivals, recall stories about Strauss and the origins of Ariadne auf Naxos. The interview was recorded in 1962 during a Metropolitan Opera broadcast intermission.
Part 2 of the interview is below; here the two divas discuss Strauss and some of his other operas.