Opera season begins with Strauss comedyWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Making its Toledo debut this month will be what is perhaps composer Richard Strauss’s greatest opera.
“Ariadne auf Naxos,” which opens Oct. 8, is a “hysterical opera-within-an-opera,” said Renay Conlin, general and artistic director of the Toledo Opera.
“I would say this is his best opera,” Conlin said. “Some of the others may have more name recognition, but this absolutely, by general consensus, is his greatest opera.”
“Ariadne auf Naxos” pits a comedienne against a prima donna at a high-society dinner party.
“Basically, the wealthiest man in Vienna invites to his home an opera and also a comedic troupe,” Conlin said. “He tells the two groups — the serious opera and the ridiculous comedy — that in order to be finished in time for the evening’s fireworks display, they are going to have to perform simultaneously.”
Comparing the production style to the comedic play “Noises Off,” Conlin said the first act, in English, sets everything up, and the second act, in German, is the performance. English translations will be projected above the stage.
Conlin said “Ariadne auf Naxos,” which premiered in 1912 in London, is “immediately appealing,” both in music and story.
“Strauss is a wonderfully zany composer,” Conlin said. “The way he writes for the orchestra is extremely colorful, with incredible orchestrations. People really respond to his music immediately.”
The performance also includes “one of the most incredible and demanding soprano arias ever composed,” Conlin said.
Soprano Heather Buck, who plays comedienne Zerbinetta, will be singing that part.
“It’s a fiendishly difficult aria,” Buck said. “Long, with all kinds of different sections in it. … [The character]really pulls out all the tricks in her bag to dazzle the audience.”
Buck said “Ariadne auf Naxos” offers a little of everything.
“I think you get a great combination of humor and parts that are really touching, and then parts that are more charming and sly, and then parts that are completely unexpected,” Buck said. “It’s a wonderful example of showing multiple sides of characters, not only in words but in music. Strauss has a way of writing for women’s voices that is just the most beautiful, gorgeous, fluid thing. It’s like this waterfall of sounds … and you get seduced in.”
Buck, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., was last in Toledo in May, portraying Adina in the Toledo Opera production of “L’elisir d’amore.”
“I can’t say I know the city very well because I’ve spent most of my time here in rehearsals, but I had a lovely time,” Buck said. “Last time I was here, I got a chance to go to the museum. There is so much going on here; it’s such as culturally rich city. Some colleagues went to the zoo the other day and had a fabulous time.”
The other leading ladies are soprano Barbara Quintiliani as Ariadne and mezzo-soprano Stacey Rishoi as The Composer. Tenor Michael Hayes will play Bacchus.
British stage director Jonathon Field will make his directorial debut in Toledo. Thomas Conlin, Renay’s husband, will conduct.
Performances will be 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10 at The Valentine Theatre, 400 N. Superior St., in Downtown Toledo. For more information or to order tickets, visit www.toledoopera.org.