Opera Scotland

Ariadne on Naxos 1997Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Ariadne auf Naxos

The 1997-98 season for Scottish Opera started with the brilliant idea of another look at the original 1912 concept of Ariadne auf Naxos. That version started with the performance of an abbreviated text of Molière's comedy Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. This was seen at an early Edinburgh Festival in 1950, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, but had not been seen in Scotland since. The new production, which played at the 1997 Edinburgh Festival, was a co-production with Nottingham Playhouse. The conventional revision, with prologue, followed as part of the main season.

That season started with a long Opera-Go-Round tour of The Barber of Seville. This was followed by eight main stage productions: Norma, Rigoletto, Peter Grimes, Tosca, Così fan tutte, Ariadne auf Naxos, The Queen of Spades and La traviata. In addition there were concert performances of Handel's Samson and three performances of a double bill of Param Vir's Snatched by the Gods and Broken Strings.

The original coupling of Ariadne with the Molière as a prologue had not been seen since the 1950 Festival. This version was well conceived by Martin Duncan and his team, but still highlighted the difficulties inherent in the arrangement. The play (actually a comedy-ballet) is one of a number of Molière comedies that have been shown to work well when translated into Scots, but those have generally been performed in the various Scottish repertory theatres, which are quite intimate. The new English translation by Jeremy Sams was fluent and successful but the Festival Theatre did sometimes seem too big for the projection of the comedy to work ideally - after all, in 1950 the King's Theatre was used. Nevertheless, Richard Armstrong and Scottish Opera's orchestra gave an excellent account of the many beautiful dance numbers.

Of the actors, Sam Kelly gave a hilarious performance as the bumbling Monsieur Jourdain, a stock comic portrayal of newly-acquired wealth, a classic part. The other actors from the Nottingham Playhouse company included Guy Burgess (Composer), Robert Austin (Dancing Master), Malcolm Scates (Music Master) - important characters that are retained in new musical form in the revised prologue.

The characters who were later excised included Mark Ashman (Fencing Master), John Hodgkinson (Philosopher), Malcolm Scates (Head Tailor), Gillian Hanna (Madame Jourdain), Mary Roscoe (Nicoline), Joe Dixon (Dorante), Joanna Tope (Dorimène), Steve Fawell & Nicholas Pegg (Two Lackeys).

Apart from the three Nymphs, all the sung characters benefit from expanded roles in the revised Prologue - particularly Zerbinetta and her four colleagues. These soloists would all benefit from this when they returned the following spring to perform the final version. Excellent as Anne Evans and John Horton Murray were in their demanding vocal displays, the roles of Ariadne and Bacchus also seem slightly two-dimensional when we have not seen the earlier antics of prima donna and tenor. The opportunity to see the original version was very useful. However in a British theatrical context, where collaboration between an opera company and a theatre troupe seems difficult to arrange, it is likely to remain an unusual event - just what festivals are for.

Performance Cast

Prima Donna Ariadne in the opera

Anne Evans

Tenor Bacchus in the opera

John Murray

Naiad a nymph

Helen Williams

Dryad a nymph

Claire Bradshaw

Echo a nymph

Anna-Clare Monk

Zerbinetta a comedian

Lisa Saffer

Harlequin a comedian

David Stephenson

Scaramuccio a comedian

David Owen

Truffaldino a comedian

Andrew Slater

Brighella a comedian

Richard Coxon

Performance DatesAriadne on Naxos 1997

Map List

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

20 Aug, 19.15 22 Aug, 19.15 24 Aug, 19.15

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