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Customer Review

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding newer production of Ariadne from the Met, 13 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: R. Strauss : Ariadne auf Naxos [DVD] [2010] [NTSC] (DVD)
There is, of course, the classic recording of 'Ariadne auf Naxos' from the Metropolitan Opera filmed in 1988 and starring Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle and Tatiana Troyanos. That is a marvellous performance, but this newer production by Elijah Moshinsky is almost its equal. Inexplicably this performance starring Natalie Dessay and Deborah Voigt has only recently appeared on DVD even though it was recorded in 2003. It is an excellent production featuring a realistic 'backstage' setting for the prologue, followed by a more abstract set for the 'Ariadne' performance, which is used very evocatively.

The cast is really excellent, almost ideal. Natalie Dessay is truly outstanding, giving a virtuoso performance as Zerbinetta. She is vocally brilliant, both fluid and accurate, but she is also a wonderful actress. This is a beautifully controlled performance making it absolutely believable, playful but never over the top. She really gets to the heart of the character and brings out the real humanity of her personality and her genuine attempts to help both the composer and the prima donna to fully accept and appreciate the limitations and joys of real life.

Deborah Voigt is also excellent, not as magisterial as Jessye Norman in the earlier set, nor with such a huge voice, but in her own way very commanding. Her singing is beautifully restrained and controlled. She is very accurate, letting Strauss's wonderful melodies speak for themselves.

Susanne Mentzer is good as the composer, but not the equal of Tatiana Troyanos. She has a wider vibrato than is ideal for this character which is slightly distracting in some of the absolutely beautiful melodic lines that Strauss gives to the composer (himself ?). This is only a minor criticism, however, in general she does a very good job both vocally and dramatically.

The real plus in this performance compared to the earlier production, is with the male cast members. All of them are truly excellent and appropriate to their roles. Richard Margison is much better as the tenor/Bacchus than James King, who was well past his best when he sang this role in the 1988 set and is the major drawback in that earlier performance. Neither of them really look the part (except ironically), but dramatically and especially vocally Richard Margison is far better. It is also very good to have Wolfgang Brendel as the music master and there are highly entertaining performances from Waldemar Kmentt as the Major-Domo and Nathan Gunn as Harlekin, but all the men are very good.

Even more than the individual performances, however, the real success of this production is that it works as a whole. It is totally believable and the cast work so well together that the viewer is drawn in right from the start and held entranced throughout the unfolding drama, ludicrous though the events may be. There is a truth and an underlying reality here that really makes it work. Add to that the glorious music in such a wonderful performance and this is an operatic gem.

The visual and sound recordings are both first class and the DVD is well produced with LPCM stereo or DTS 5.0 surround sound, 16:9 picture format and optional subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian. This DVD is very good value at the modest list price which is typical for this series of opera recordings by Virgin. Altogether an excellent modern recording of one of Richard Strauss' finest operas.
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