Seattle Opera again presents its own production of the Strauss classic, replete with stellar singers (Kate Lindsey, Christiane Libor, Sarah Coburn and Issachah Savage), a stranded princess, randy clowns and powerful music.
You might call it glorious chaos.
“Ariadne auf Naxos” rides again at Seattle Opera, in a remount of the company’s triumphant 2004 production of the Strauss classic. With a mostly new cast capering about on Robert Dahlstrom’s versatile set, this fast-moving show hit the accelerator right from the downbeat in Saturday’s opening-night performance. We see the impassioned Composer, mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, “conducting” the overture from the stage in an all-out maestro mode — the first indication of the brilliant energy she brings to the role.
The opera is about many things — love, hope, disappointment, human foibles, the transformative power of music — but it’s also about the challenge of throwing together an opera in the face of obstacles. There’s a lengthy Prologue, in which the horrified Composer discovers that his idealistic new opera on mythological themes must be combined with a rumbustious performance by a comedy troupe. And the second act delivers this combined performance, as party entertainment for the richest man in town. All this is overlain by Strauss at his most Wagnerian.
‘Ariadne auf Naxos’
By Richard Strauss. A Seattle Opera production, with Lawrence Renes, conductor, and staging by Chris Alexander. Through May 16, with alternate cast May 15, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; tickets from $25 (206-389-7676 or seattleopera.org).
Director Chris Alexander has a sure hand with this chaotic premise, presenting the opera’s wide emotional spectrum with clarity and honesty. Luckily, he has a gifted cast at his disposal. First off, there’s Lindsey’s Composer, utterly believable as an actor, and both subtle and thrilling as a singer (the high notes, tough for a mezzo, are stellar.) Then there’s the Ariadne of Christiane Libor, who made her Seattle debut as a memorable Leonore (in the 2012 “Fidelio”) and has developed even more vocal heft in the meantime.
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The character of Bacchus makes his appearance late in the opera, but Issachah Savage was worth waiting for. Arriving onstage in a “chariot” that doubled as a massive Champagne cooler (looks like the partygoers were enjoying some Veuve Clicquot), the young tenor sang with bewitching tonal beauty and majestic amplitude that underscored his top prize in last year’s Seattle International Wagner Competition.
In the second act, there’s always this moment when you start to wonder whether Strauss intended the opera to become “Zerbinetta auf Naxos”: the lengthy and spectacular aria, “Grossmächtige Prinzessin” (“High and Mighty Princess”), a coloratura tour-de-force that stops the show and turns it on its axis. You need a terrific and fearless Zerbinetta; the company has one in the fetching Sarah Coburn, who frolicked atop a grand piano while her voice zoomed far above the staff.
The supporting cast included such gems as Andrew Garland (Harlekin), Patrick Carfizzi (double duty as the hapless Music Teacher and later as one of Zerbinetta’s suitors); Doug Jones (the Dancing Master); Joshua Kohl (Brighella); and Eric Neuville (Scaramuccio). Ariadne’s three attendants (Naiad, Dryad and Echo) were artfully sung by Amanda Opuszynski, Maya Lahyani and Andrea Carroll. Actor Georg Martin Bode intoned the lines of the Butler with suavely comic timing. And there on the stage among the second-act partygoers was Seattle Opera’s retired general director, Speight Jenkins, who got an appreciative surge from the audience when he was recognized.
The orchestra was a rich, warm presence under the baton of Lawrence Renes, who also proved an adroit accompanist to the singers — supporting but not overpowering the voices. Four more voices will be heard in the leading roles in an alternate cast May 3 and 15 (Sarah Larsen as the Composer, Jeffrey Hartman as Bacchus, Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta and Marcy Stonikas as Ariadne).