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Arts & Entertainment, etc. / Opinion

Review: 'Ariadne auf Naxos'

October 7, 2009

Indianapolis Opera’s season-opening production of “Ariadne auf Naxos” (Oct. 2, 4) got off to a very winning start.

In what’s considered the prologue but is actually the entire first half, egos battle and compromises wrestled with as an opera company is forced by their patron to incorporate the antics of a comic troupe into their oh-so-serious production. The reason: The patron wants his fireworks to go off at 9 p.m. and no later.

Anchored by Jane Dutton—giving comic and emotional integrity to the role as the composer—Rachele Gilmore in the showy role of Zerbinetta, and pride-of-Indy Angela Brown having over-the-top fun as the diva, the opening scene amusingly set up a payoff that was never quite delivered.

In Act II (the onstage opera-within-and-opera), the narrative quickly got murky, the balance tipped away from the comic premise, and the proceedings grew tedious, despite Brown powerful singing as the tormented Ariadne and a sweet closing moment. Those opera fans who focus almost exclusively on voice may have left more satisfied.

With such a strong cast, solid set design, and stunning lighting, I’ll risk the wrath of the opera hard core by laying most of that blame on the real composer, Richard Strauss, and his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal. And I’ll stand by that until I see an “Ariadne” production that concludes as strongly as it begins.

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