Ariadne auf Naxos - Further information
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
World première on October 4, 1916 at Hofoper, Vienna
‘A new god arrives and we surrender without a word’, these are the words Zerbinetta uses to console the lovesick Ariadne, but in vain. For Ariadne, life without Theseus, who abandoned her, is senseless and she no longer wants to live. This conversation between two women, who couldn’t be more different, is the result of a turbulent series of events. In the home of the wealthiest man in Vienna preparations are being made for an evening of opera: the performance of the tragic opera ‘Ariadne’ followed by a humorous intermezzo, ‘Zerbinetta and Her Lovers’. However, during preparations, the patron changes his mind and expresses another wish: to ensure that the fireworks display begins on time, both operas must be combined and performed simultaneously on the same stage. An opera within an opera within an opera.
In their third collaboration Strauss and Hofmannsthal create a witty play on references, quotations and allusions. They generously take inspiration from the history of civilization – from Ariadne, who is classically regarded as the epitome of the abandoned woman, to Commedia dell’arte characters and from the parody of a poem by Lenz to Brahms’ lullaby. However, neither of the authors is capable of maintaining his self-imposed, dispassionate distance. The music, performed by a chamber ensemble of 35 instrumentalists, culminates in the apotheosis when in the last act, Ariadne awaiting death, departs with Bacchus for a new life. Was Zerbinetta right after all? This ironically twisted and entertaining tale conceals a more existential matter: In order to be true to himself a human being must be transformed.