The Strauss opera Ariadne auf Naxos was inspired by the Moliere play The
Middle-Class Gentleman. The richest man in Vienna has arranged for two
entertainments--one a serious opera composed by a young man just for the
occasion, and the other an Italian comedy group. He decides at the last minute
to combine the two into one entertainment. If he were a proper gentleman, he
would know better.

Musically it has the same feeling of being a concoction, a shifting landscape.
In Act I all the characters appear as themselves, and sing in a very natural
way, similar to the style of Rosenkavalier. In Act II the comedy troop performs
to dance rhythms while Ariadne and Bacchus are in a serious style probably
closest to Frau ohne Schatten.

The only character prominent in both acts is the soprano Zerbinetta, leader of
the comedy group, sung in a very comic style by Kathleen Kim. She has a major
aria in coloratura style, the only one by Richard Strauss that I am aware of.
Ariadne and her singer self are in both halves, but her part becomes large and
significant in Act II. She is sung by the large and significant Violetta
Urmana. It is a major dramatic soprano role with its own famous aria "Es gibt
ein Reich."

The composer role appears only in Act I. Joyce DiDonato wonderfully expansive
and arrogant portraying this character. She sang fabulously and threw a number
of spactacular temper tantrums.

Bacchus is mostly in the second act and was sung well by the handsome Robert
Dean Smith.

I was less than thrilled by the conducting of Fabio Luisi. The conductor shapes
the musical impression, and often the work lay lifeless.

I'm never quite sure this opera really works, but in any performance I've seen
someone manages to raise the level of excitement and make it live. In this
performance this was Joyce DiDonato.