High Art Lite: The Boston Lyric Opera’s Ariadne Auf Naxos

03.15.10
Erik Nielsen
Planet Eye Traveler

By Maria Olia

An idealistic young composer is asked to edit his debut opera, a retelling of a Greek tragedy Ariadne, to include the members of a comedy troupe. Egos are bruised, changes and cuts are made- all with unexpected results.

Boston Lyric Opera’s presentation of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne Auf Naxos is a highly entertaining production -a comic opera about making an opera. This Ariadne is the American premiere of a Welsh National Opera production and comes with some terrific sets and costuming. The present-day “backstage” theater set in Act I is a highly detailed - complete with minute dressing rooms and a much-used coffee machine. The second act takes place in a dreamy post-modern version of the Greek island of Naxos.

Directed by Neil Armfield, this Ariadne features several up-and -coming opera talents. Soprano Marjorie Owens plays the title role; the 28 year-old has a clear and beautiful voice. Brandon Jovanovich was outstanding as Bacchus; appropriately heroic and conceited . Mezzo-soprano Edyta Kulczak is a convincing as the passionate Composer.

Soprano Rachel Gilmore plays the flirty Zerbinetta-the lead actress of the comedy troupe- with excellent phrasing and great appeal. The merry pranks of the band of comic actors; Julius Ahn, Jesse Blumberg, David M. Cushing and Tracy Wise, move the story along. While Erik Nielsen conducts Strauss’ lovely score, nicely keeping the balance between the voices and the orchestra.