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Ariadne Auf Naxos @ Tanglewood 2010

Ariadne auf Naxos


Tanglewood Festival



For the third and final performance (Aug. 4) of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos presented by the Tanglewood Music Center Vocal Fellows and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, rising young Japanese conductor Keitaro Harada, a student in the TMC program, got his turn to lead the forces prepared by Christoph von Dohnányi. Harada's command of the score was total, from the uncommonly beautiful legato and sweep of the opening orchestral phrases, hinting at the inspired, ecstatic melodies created by the character known as the Composer, to the carefully controlled climaxes of the final duet, in which Ariadne and Bacchus join in uncomprehending ecstasy.

Eduardo Sicangco's sets and costumes featured a basement corridor that doubled as dressing-room area and wine storage, with a circular stairway and various levels affording plenty of playing space for the backstage hustle of the Prologue. Ariadne's island cave, an elegant faux-marble neo-Grecian salon with a pool vista and chic nautical art, was invaded by the quartet of comedians wearing Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts and surfer jams, sporting snorkels and beach toys. Matthew McCarthy's lighting design featured hypnotic underwater effects and a stunning play of silver and gold, with adorable fireworks, as stipulated all along by the rich patron, for the finale.

Director Ira Siff shepherded his young cast carefully in difficult roles, always mindful of stage placement and musical needs. Still, the performance seemed constrained by the unseen presence of a squadron of voice teachers, with nearly all the singers unwilling to pounce on the music and go beyond "correct," well-schooled vocalism. In the title role, Emalie Savoy displayed the requisite gleam for such moments as the great aria "Es gibt ein Reich" and sang elegantly all night. In her black gown and purple cape, cradling Theseus's battle helmet, the abandoned and tense Ariadne opened up into sensuality in the final scene, and Savoy's singing blossomed and grew magnificently.

As Bacchus, Ta'u Pupu'a showed no discomfort with the high, heroic writing, but his musical insecurities, especially his rhythmic imprecision, marred every phrase and stood in the way of any theatrical credibility. Audrey Elizabeth Luna's Zerbinetta was securely sung but lacked real dramatic specificity, in spite of hyper-cutesy choreography for "Grossmachtige Prinzessin" that involved lots of wiggling, primping and lying on the floor. Cecelia Hall's Composer was beautifully sung but underplayed, a sort of "gentle soul" not entirely consistent with Strauss's intensely passionate musical characterization; Hall's offhand stage presence held the audience's focus only with difficulty.

Elliott Madore took a star turn as the Music Master, stooping in his tweedy jacket like an old, tenured philosophy professor but singing with ringing, rounded tone. Later, Madore brought unusual nuance to Harlekin's little serenade. Guest artist Hans Pieter Herman was excellent as the officious Major-Domo, while Patrick Jang brought musical-theater style and immediacy to the role of the Dancing Master and Emily Duncan-Brown was impressive vocally as Echo.  


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Posted on Oct 17, 2010 by Registered CommenterEduardo Sicangco | Comments Off

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