Ariadne auf Naxos - Synopsis

Richard Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos. Adrianne Pieczonka, Burkhard Fritz Ariadne auf Naxos: Jane Archibald, Statisterie Richard Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos. Ensemble

Ariadne auf Naxos

Richard Strauss
Hugo von Hofmannsthal



Preparations are being made for the performance of the Opera seria „Ariadne auf Naxos“.
The man who has commissioned the opera has an announcement made: after the opera there will be entertainment with dancing. The composer of the opera feels that his artistic masterpiece is being mocked; his music master advises him nevertheless to accept the whims of the man who has commissioned the opera in order not to forfeit the fee for his composition. Shortly before the performance is due to begin, the latter changes his mind yet again; the opera and the comic entertainment are now to be played simultaneously so that the performance will not take so long. Whereas the composer would now prefer to destroy his opera completely, the music master advises him to shorten parts of his work in order to save the whole, and the dancing master points out that the comedians are very capable improvisers. The composer is very unwilling to do as they suggest; only when he meets the comedians‘ leading lady, Zerbinetta, in person does he begin to see things differently.


The three nymphs Naiad, Dryad and Echo, express their sympathy for Ariadne in her sorrow; she has been abandoned on a desert island by her beloved Theseus, whose life she has saved and now longs for death. Zerbinetta and her four companions, Harlequin, Brighella, Scaramuccio and Truffaldino, try in vain to comfort Ariadne in her distress. Zerbinetta in particular, who is used to passing from one lover to the next without a care in the world, explains to Ariadne in great detail her own attitude to the topics of love and devotion. As Ariadne gives no sign of being inspired by what she is telling her, Zerbinetta gives up; instead  each of the four men now tries to gain Zerbinetta’s favour and get rid of his rivals. After Zerbinetta has made her choice, the three nymphs announce the arrival of the god Bacchus. He has just escaped from the clutches of Circe and when he sees Ariadne he believes that he has fallen yet again into the power of the sorceress. Ariadne, for her part, thinks he is Hermes, the messenger of death, and begs him to take her with him. As they each gradually realize who the other is, Ariadne and Bacchus undergo a transformation: he becomes aware that he is a divine being and she realizes that she is willing to love again – as the composer foresaw and Zerbinetta prophesied it would be.

© Bayerische Staatsoper