Ariadne auf Naxos: first-class singing, occasionally silly opera

“Bunch of bullsh*t!”, opined the obese Texan in the next seat as the curtain came down on Ariadne auf Naxos. Not really a surprising reaction – he’d been checking his watch every few minutes all evening.

But was Saturday’s Royal Opera House production really that bad?

Well, the score and libretto are only intermittently engaging. The Prologue/first act is superfluous. And some of the staging was creaky.

But this production also has considerable strengths, particularly some first-class singing. It was well worth seeing controversial American soprano Deborah Voigt for the first time, and exulting in her enormous voice. House favourite Thomas Allen was, as usual, vibrant. Gillian Keith, Kristine Jepson and Markus Werba also caught the eye. The band, under Mark Elder, gave a very good account of itself.

An irksome, unsatisfying, occasionally silly opera – yes. For that, I blame Richard Strauss. But Bunch of BS? No – a bit over the top, that.

Gerry Smith

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