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Strauss: Ariadne Auf Naxos [DVD] [NTSC]

Susan Anthony , Jon Villars    Exempt   DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: £24.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Susan Anthony, Jon Villars, Sophie Koch, Íride Martínez, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: ARTHAUS
  • DVD Release Date: 26 Sep 2011
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005KQ8NYE
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 225,842 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



Ariadne auf Naxosis perhaps the most wonderfully strange of Richard Strauss's operas, and the most inventive of the ones in which he considers the nature of opera itself. A young composer and commedia dell'arte coquette Zerbinetta flirt as their patron demands that tragic opera and comedy be performed at the same time; Ariadne moons around her desert island waiting for death and teased by Zerbinetta and her clowns, only to be saved by the God Bacchus. Colin Davis loves this opera and brings out every morsel of its wit and its yearning romanticism; this Dresden production takes intelligent liberties and manages to charm almost as much visually as it does musically. In the breeches part of the young composer, Sophie Koch has a passionate vulnerability; Susan Anthony as the diva and as Ariadne has a haughtiness and a sadness that are almost as touching. Iride Martinez captures Zerbinetta's mercurial wit and high-octane sexuality; as Bacchus, Jon Villars is at once ardent and other-worldly. It is almost impossible to imagine a more delightful version of this great opera.

On the DVD: The DVD has subtitles in English, French and Spanish; the picture quality and sound are excellent. --Roz Kaveney

Product Description

With his opera Ariadne on Naxos, Richard Strauss succeeded in making a lasting contribution to 20th century chamber opera and at the same time (alongside Elektra, Der Rosenklavier, Arabella and Die Frau Ohne Schatten) provided an example of one of the most productive and successful cooperations with a renowned literary contemporary, Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Numerous operas by Richard Strauss were first performed in Dresdens Semperoper, in the very building which was destroyed in 1945 and could only open again in 1977. A new production of Strausss Ariadne on Naxos was performed here in 1999, after many long years, with production and stage-setting by the Swiss director Marco Arturo Marelli and under the musical direction of Sir Colin Davis. The Leipziger Volkszeitung wrote of it, A super production. Not even in terms of vocals does anything remain open to question. (. . .) Go!. This DVD makes it even more convenient and brings the production into your own home . . .

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Desert island Delight 28 Jun 2001
A more than engaging modern, or timeless even, production of what can be a stuffy offering. Greatly helped by the exquisite and tasteful guidance of Sir Colin Davies. All the performers act convincingly, in what again has to be potentially a most unconvincing opera! And they sing well too! The only international name here is the patriarchal Theo Adam, a great favourite of mine, and so good to have him seen as well as heard. All the parts are well taken, a most agreeable touch is to have composer, normally not seen after the prologue, swooning at the effortless coloratura of Iride Martinez. Jon Villars blazes forth as Bacchus, and Susan Anthony is a visually and vocally ravishing Ariadne. This is all supported superlatively by the Dresden Staatskapelle. Highly recommended!!
Dafydd ap William
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and touching 17 Aug 2008
I have had 'Ariadne' on CD for many years. Yet nothing prepared me for this DVD. In order to make sense of this opera, you have to see it as well as hear it. Without the visuals, I'm tempted to take the plot too seriously, which is bad news, because however beautiful the music is (and it is enchantingly beautiful), the plot is uproariously funny. This DVD gets that across admirably. This can be a difficult work to stage - and yet in this production everything fits together perfectly and even Iride Martinez (as Zerbinetta) has a good laugh at herself. This is a production in which everyone is clearly enjoying themselves, including the orchestra and conductor, and this communicates itself to the viewer; and I just LOVE the way that a barman manages to drop an ice cube into a glass of gin and tonic in perfect time to one of the notes in Zerbinetta's aria! If your mission is to convince someone that opera is worth getting into, start with this.
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The orchestra and singers on this DVD recording have approached perfection and the quality of the sound recording is also superb, especially at the climax, ranking with Richard Strauss's best. The staging however is a complete waste. The house of the richest man in Vienna has been interpreted as a trendy modern art museum apparently hosting a donor's party, complete with distracting flashes from a video installation. The prologue is placed in a lobby with the washroom and several basins visible to the side.

If you know the plot and understand German, I suggest that you close your eyes and just listen to a great performance. If you don't understand German, then the subtitles are of some value to add to your understanding and enjoyment of the music.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sparkling, Updated Ariadne With Good Ideas 22 July 2004
By G P Padillo - Published on
I'm still reeling from watching the new DVD of the 2000 production of Marco Arturo Marelli's production of "Ariadne auf Naxos" for Dresden's Semperoper. Delightfully zany are the words that spring immediately to mind.

Updated (though difficult during the prologue to tell just what period, costumes time traveling as they seem) Marelli's marvelous set gives the feeling of a communal dressing/rehearsal area in a theatre's basement. Dressing rooms on either side, with a large lavatory stage right has occupants coming and going, hangers-on washing hands, etc. as the idealistic composer hyperactively approaches a nervous breakdown.

Sophie Koch (who for all the world looks like Laura San Giacomo auditioning for "Master Class" - or is it the young Joel Grey as Schubert?) is offers a genuinely manic Komponist. The voice has a squeaky clean element to it while possessing a nice warmth and weight, gorgeous tone and fearless on top.

The prologue fairly snaps under Marelli's fast paced direction lending it the feel of one of those hyperactive screwball 1930's Hollywood comedies (I kept waiting to see Carol Lombard or the Marx Brothers pop in) - the entire cast coming close to crashing in some corybantic crescendo. (Yes, it's that much fun!) I love when a director makes me see a familiar work with fresh eyes and experience it almost as for the first time. This Ariadne does that.

Susan Anthony's Prima Donna is properly prima donnish. Early on the voice

reminded me of the same "type" voice as Kiri Te Kanawa, but with a touch more "oomph" - her beautiful, quick, even vibrato not the least of those shared qualities. If there is weakness it (at least here) is in the mid range which just doesn't project nearly as well as the rest which, unfortunately makes a good chunk of "Es gibt ein Reich" just a tad less exciting than I hoped for. The upper range, however, is stunning - a truly gorgeous sound. Anthony's Ariadne is hilarious, stubborn and heartbreaking. Pretty damned good!

Iride Martinez looks like a Costa Rican Eartha Kitt. In a great 50's style gown with sequined serpents coiling at the top, her Zerbinetta is one of great cynical beauty as she dances, jumps, moves with vain elegance like a musical comedy pro. "Grossmachtige Prinzessin" is clearly the showstopper here and Martinez is sassy, just shy of crass, and white hot. She possesses a crystalline quality to the voice and the technical ability to pull of the role with barely a hitch and tosses off that big High E that not only dazzles it has enough size to it to knock you off your seat!

The oddly attired nymphs come into their own and provide some of the work's most beautiful music as they announce and welcome Bacchus to the island - truly one of my favorite moments in any of Strauss's scores.

The comedia del arte troupe is hilariously gotten up in campy beach wear (with umbrellas, beach balls, etc.) and they sing and expertly execute their choreography with a delightful and slightly derisive comic panache.

Jon Villars brief appearance as the tenor offers a perfect, over-the-top egomaniac in a dressing gown. His Bacchus is a bit wooden (what Bacchus isn't?) and fairly unfortunately costumed his face (as well as all exposed skin) painted gold with a white post-punk hairstyle that makes him look like a negative of Buster Crabbe's Flash Gordon. The voice however, is a marvel. Sizeable and gleaming Villars cuts through everything with a glorious, thrilling bite. (He does have a problem with one note - an A I believe, and looked momentarily irritated, but recovered beautifully).

The final duet is creatively carried out, the couple making use of the then closed stage curtain as they slowly sink into it as if an abyss only to have it re-open to reveal thrilling visual effects that come close to matching Strauss's magic score.

Marelli puts new spins in this Ariadne, creating even more characters than usual in an already well-populated opera. He makes visible the guests attending "Ariadne" as they mill about sipping champagne, bored, sitting on the set or watching television. Another wonderful touch is having the composer part of the performance - alternatively smitten and horrified by everyone and everything. We see his face register self-indulgent joy as he listens to Ariadne sing his glorious music; we watch him transfixed, almost transfigured with a touch of homoerotic wonder as his Bacchus approaches him; and finally we see even this idealistic youth succumb to the charms of Zerbinetta.

Colin Davis leads a fairly propulsive reading, drawing ravishing sound from the orchestra. The entire thing, while never really feeling "rushed" seems to pass in the blink of an eye.

This truly is a theatrically thrilling production of Ariadne that could hold its own in any great theatre district. Ariadne auf Broadway, anyone?

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Wonderful Opera and Performance--Sophie Koch Is Smashing" 16 May 2006
By Paul L. McKaskle - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Ariadne auf Naxos is one of my favorite operas and I have seen it on stage numerous times. However, in the past I have found the Prologue only occasionally amusing but not nearly as enjoyable as the opera proper. But with this production, and especially with the singing and acting of Sophie Koch as the Composer, I now truly enjoy the Prologue. Koch is simply magnificent as the young, innocent, idealistic composer who discovers that her masterpiece is to be trashed by the whim of her aristocratic employer. She is horrified when she meets Zerbinetta, whose Commedia dell Arte troop is to perform simultaneously with her opera. But, Zerbinetta works her magic on the Composer and for a few moments the Composer is transfixed by Zerbinetta. But the bustle of getting ready for the performance (performances?) sweeps over the stage and the Prologue comes to an end.

As Ariadne, Susan Anthony, new to me, does an excellent job. Of those I've seen on stage, Elisabeth Schwartzkopf remains the standard for me, and both Leontyne Price and Deborah Voigt are close competitors in the role. Susan Anthony also comes very close. Iride Martinez, also new to me, is superb as Zerbinetta. I haven't yet had the pleasure of seeing Natalie Dessay sing the role (though I have her on CD) and she might even be better, and I've heard several other excellent Zerbinetta's in the past, but Martinez does a wonderful job, especially with the show-stopper Grossmachtige Prinzessen. The rest of the cast is strong. The major-domo is wonderfully imperious.

The production is set in "modern times" and is unconventional in several respects. I'm not a big fan of "updating" operas. I think updating Rosenkavalier, for example, would be a terrible mistake-its whole logic depends on the ethos of the time in which it is set. But I don't think there is any compelling reason to perform Ariadne as an 18th century event. Wealthy boorish "patrons" exist today. I also don't think the production could properly be called "euro-trash" (of which there is too much these days.) It is unconventional, and there are a couple of jarring features in the sets-the "bathroom" at stage right in the Prologue and some sort of TV device in the background during the Opera proper, but mostly the set is pretty realistic given that it is supposed to be set in a large mansion, not in a theater. So, the Prologue takes place in a makeshift backstage and the Opera proper is in a space somewhere in the house. The inclusion of the guests milling around on the periphery of the stage might be jarring to some, but it didn't bother me-it emphasized that the "patron" was a boor who has boorish friends. Finally, during the opera proper, the Composer makes several (silent) appearances, most prominently where "he" "plays" the piano during Grossmachtige Prinzessen while looking as if "he" is in love with Zerbinetta. I thought these were nice touches (though, doubtless, controversial) since it always seemed to me to be a shame that the Composer disappears at the end of the Prologue and we never know how he might have reacted to the final product. I think the Opera proper is simply magnificent music-easily on my "desert-island top ten" list--and I have probably listened to it on LP and then on CD multiple hundreds of times in the past half century. So it is nice to see in this production that the Composer is captivated by the final product.

I recommend this DVD wholeheartedly, first for Sophie Koch's incredible performance, second, for the solid performance of everyone else and, third, for an imaginative production-- though "modern" not jarringly so, at least to me.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Different does not mean wrong 12 Aug 2006
By Mr John Haueisen - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
So what if the three Muses look like multi-colored Smurfs?

Yes, the costuming, scenery, and number of people onstage may be different from what we are accustomed to, but IT WORKS!

First, Sophie Koch, as the Composer, not only sings excellently, but, acting-wise, she seems more involved in the entire production, as she drifts on and off the stage, pondering what is to become of her composition--this work. She really makes Strauss's point about writing music for the stage.

Colin Davis and the orchestra of the Sachsische Staatsoper Dresden provide the appropriate sublimely Strauss "terrible chords" (in the good sense) which support the great artist performances here.

Susan Anthony brings passion and masterly singing, with acting to match it. At the end, as the credits start to roll, we can see that she is exhilarated by this magnificent performance.

Jon Villars, though a bit bizarrely attired (how does one dress as Bacchus?) is the most powerful, vocally and stage-presence-wise that I've seen in this (Hermes/Bacchus) role.

Iride Martinez, despite the other two strong leads, manages to steal the show. Her singing is superb. Her joie d'vivre and-- Oh, her facial expressions!-- give new depth to the role. This is why opera should be seen on DVD!

It's like leaving the theater thinking, "Oh boy, I sure am glad I came to see this tonight."
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best opera experience on DVD yet! 20 July 2004
By MDFinMIA - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This 2000 production by the Semperopera Dresden makes perhaps the best case yet for opera on DVD. A magical, brilliant, breathtaking musical performance in a staging that is inventive, compelling and involving. I simply adored this disc! Cast is uniformly excellent, with a particular nod to the Composer of Sophie Koch. Colin Davis leads an exquisite, nuanced reading from the Dresdeners, and the sound and image are first rate. Splendid!
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful song, but annoying modern staging 5 Jun 2004
By M Souza - Published on
Buy this DVD for the singing, as all of the singers are near ideal. Susan Anthony shines in the title role, her voice warm and silvery with wonderful command of phrasing and dynamics. Her singing of Ariadne's set-pieces is fluent and beautiful with no harshness or wobbles, her tone beautiful and, at times, radiant. Bacchus is taken by Jon Villars, whose assumption of this role at La Scala I witnessed. There he was costumed appropriately and looked, and sang, like a god. At the Semper Opera, on this DVD, he is costumed in the now-usual Eurotrash long overcoat (when will this become a thing of the past?) but his singing is similar to that of LaScala, perhaps not as fresh, but almost effortless. The voice is strong, the high notes easy, and he does nobly by his music, with dynamic shadings here and there, strong shining high notes, and golden tone. He has an attractive stage presence, despite his costume. His hair is done in a punkish style that is not unattractive, except for Bacchus. Both these singers sing their roles lovingly, and sometimes transcend the silly staging. The Zerbinetta is Iride Martinez, whom I had not heard before. She is an amusing stage presence, and does the role wonderfully, her voice free and easy for the most part, not least in her showstopper "Grossmachtige Prinzessin." She blends well with her fellow conspirators, who are all charming and suited to their roles. The nymphs are initially unsettled, but later develop into a winning ensemble, their voices light and airy - their scene with Bacchus and Ariadne, at the god's entrance, is well done. The Komponist, Sophie Koch is very good as well, her voice conveying all of the anguish and enthusiasm of her part. The voice is a beautiful instrument, light and burnished, ringing out boldly as Koch lets loose but not losing its quality. Davis conducts lovingly, keeping the music moving, at one with his singers. The costumes are the usual mixed bag typical of European productions these days: fine in themselves, but what are they doing in Ariadne? The sound and picture are fine, in anamorphic widescreen. If you like modern productions, which update the period for no good reason, you will love this DVD, as the singing is so fine. Though I found the updating and gratuitous walk-ons and other useless bits annoying, the singing made up for the inanities.
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