Music with Ease > 20th Century Opera > Ariadne on Naxos - Richard Strauss
Ariadne on Naxos
(German title: Ariadne auf Naxos)
An Opera by Richard Strauss
Opera in one act; by Richard Strauss; words by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. To follow Molières Comedy, "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme."
ARLECCHINO, character in old Italian comedy
SCARAMUCCIO, character in old Italian comedy..Tenor
TRUFFALDIN, character in old Italian comedy
Place: The Island of Naxos.
Note: On the stage there are present, as spectators of the opera, Jourdain, Marquise Dorimène and Count Dorantes, characters from "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme."
The peculiar relationship of this opera to Molières comedy is easily explained, although the scheme is a curious one. In "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme," Molière has Jourdain, the commoner, who in his folly strives to imitate the nobility, engage an entire ballet troupe for a private performance at his house. The opera, "Ariadne auf Naxos," is supposed to take the place of this ballet. Besides the opera, Richard Strauss has composed eleven incidental musical members for the two acts of the comedy, to which the opera is added as an independent third act.
Into the representation there enters another factor, which is liable to cause confusion, unless it is understood by the spectator. Besides the opera, Jourdain has engaged a troupe of buffoons to give a performance of the old Italian Harlequin (Arlecchino) comedy. Having paid for both, he insists that both shall take place, with the result that, while the opera is in progress, the comedians dash on the stage, go through their act, and dash off again.
The adapter of Molières work to Strausss purpose has omitted the entire passage of the love scene between Cléonte and Lucille, Jourdains daughter, so that the two acts of the comedy concern themselves mainly with Jourdains folly -- his scenes with the music teacher, the dancing master, the fencing master, the philosopher, and the tailor. They also show how the intriguing Count Dorantes makes use of Jourdains stupidly, borrowing a large sum of money from him, and persuading him that he can win the favour of the Marquise with costly presents and by arranging in her honour the fête at which the opera is given. At the same time the sly Dorantes represents everything to the marquise as if he himself had contrived and paid for the gifts and the fete in her honour. The Marquise goes to Jourdains house to the banquet and celebration, as a climax to which the opera "Ariadne auf Naxos" is presented. The opera therefore follows the adaptation of "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme."
On a desert island lies Ariadne asleep before a cave. Naiad, Echo and Dryad are singing. Ariadne, on awaking, bewails the lot of the forsaken one. In her grief she feels herself near death. Then the old comedy figures come whirling in. In her desire for death Ariadne does not notice them. Zerbinetta sings and dances with her four Harlequins. This is their idea of life -- to enjoy things lightly. When they have disappeared, Naiad, Dryad, and Echo come back and announce the arrival of a youthful god. Bacchus approaches the island. From afar he sings. Ariadne hopes it is Death coming to release her. She longs for him, sinks into his arms. They are the arms of love.