Kaufmann on Sunday was in brilliant voice, just a day after his impromptu La Boheme stint — and Bechtolf's conceit works brilliantly, with the curtain going down on three couples arm-in-arm: Bacchus and Ariadne; the rich burgher and Zerbinetta, the leader of the comic troupe; and Hugo and Ottonie.
Bechtolf's creative work is what makes this production really outstanding. But any opera rests and falls on the music, and the principals did not let him down.
The audience was told that she was in poor voice, but Elena Mosuc delivered amazing coloratura fireworks that not even the highest note could withstand, accompanied by endearing theatrics that nailed the role of the coquettish Zerbinetta. As Ariadne, Emily Magee was Mosuc's perfect foil, her soprano clear and pure, her demeanor somber, as befits a tragic heroine. And the supporting roles were good as well, among them; Eva Libau, Marie-Claude Chappuis, Eleonora Buratto, Gabriel Bermudez, Michael Laurenz and Tobias Kehrer.
Daniel Harding, conducting members of the Vienna Philharmonic, conjured up a musical tapestry that sparkled in all its variations. Costumes and staging by Rolf and Marianne Glittenberg were vivid but not overbearing.
Ariadne flopped at its premiere almost 100 years ago, leading Strauss to truncate the original version and to lament that "an audience going to see a piece of spoken theater doesn't want to hear an opera and vice versa.
"There simply was no cultural understanding for this lovely 'hybrid,'" wrote Strauss back then.
Tell that to Bechtolf.
George Jahn can be reached at http://twitter.com/georgejahn
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