SOFIA – Opera and Ballet: ARIADNA AUF NAXOS – New production. Refreshing Richard Strauss in Sofia
Photo: Станислава Момекова (Цербинета). Снимка: Клаус Биланд / Stanislava Momekova (Zerbinetta). Photo: Klaus Billand
10 Jun 2022Online Merker

SOFIA – Opera and Ballet: ARIADNA AUF NAXOS – New production. Refreshing Richard Strauss in Sofia

» SOFIA – Opera and Ballett: ARIADNE AUF NAXOS –  Neuinszenierung. Erfrischender Richard Strauss in SofiaOnline Merker
16.05.2022 | Oper international

Sofia: ARIADNA AUF NAXOS – New production on 14 May 2022

Refreshing Richard Strauss in Sofia

The Sofia Opera and Ballet released at the end of April a new production of “Ariadne auf Naxos” by Richard Strauss, directed by the Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova. Under the musical direction of Evan-Alexis Christ, who is increasingly making his mark in the German field here, a refreshing, imaginative version of "Ariadne" could be seen and heard, which also made one marvel at how the Bulgarian singers of the Sofia ensemble coped with the semantic subtleties and wit of Hugo von Hofmannsthal's German libretto. This all seemed authentic and well rehearsed at all times, especially with the help of Anna Tomowa-Sintow (via video link), a great Bulgarian Ariadne of her time, in rehearsing the role. This "Ariadne" was also dedicated to her on her 80th birthday.

Due to the excellent direction of the characters, in which every move was perfect, the prelude is extremely entertaining, and also repeatedly inspires smiles, with Nemirova granting the budding love affair between Zerbinetta and the composer sensitive moments of pause, like an oasis in the general chaos. It starts right away with the singers all arriving from the train or the airport with their trolleys in normal everyday clothes and having to change into a 22-foot container of Jens Kilian's to get changed and back into make-up, or be manoeuvred into it. Before that, the arguments about the supposed and actual inadequacies take place, such as the fight between tenor and soprano over the shortening of their respective roles. The steward's final announcement that both plays must be performed in parallel, without taking longer, does indeed hit like a bomb! The costumes by Pavlina Eusterhus are as colourful, unconventional as they are up-to-date and fit this dramaturgy perfectly. At the end, the container effectively falls apart to reveal the playing area for the opera.

In the opera itself, we then see the "rich man", who is not exactly typical for Vienna, and his entourage dining as absolute art philistines in front of a kitschy Venice painting. Without paying any attention to the beginning of the opera, he talks to the table companions, smoking a cigar, and motivates his girlfriend, who is at least visually appealing, to perform a little table dance. The dollar bills fly to her calves. No sooner has the play picked up speed than the caretaker's mobile phone calls the gentleman to the shop. Only one remains behind, and the troupe then only appears once more for Zerbinetta's aria in a proscenium box, probably because of the beautiful legs of Stanislava Momekova, who also sings just as beautifully (The Paris Jockey Club from Richard Wagner's time for "Tannhäuser" might send its regards...). She sings her so challenging aria "Großmächtige Prinzessin..." not only with a vocal intensity and height security that astonish, but also with an emotionally multifaceted mimic and performance in general. Momekova can sing that anywhere in Western Europe! Strong scene applause and rightly many bravas – and not only from the proscenium box! At the end, the "rich man" and his entourage pass by in a hurry, and the steward, almost reluctantly, throws a pack of banknotes on the floor as a fee. Art and its value can hardly be treated more disparagingly than this...

СОФИЯ - Опера и балет: АРИAДНА НА НАКСОС - Нова постановка. Освежаващ Рихард Щраус в София / Klaus Billand, Online Merker

Vesela Yaneva (Dryad), Silvia Teneva (Echo) and Lyubov Metodieva.(Naiad) Photo: Klaus Billand

Lilia Kehayova is a powerfully articulate composer from the outset and, in the face of the developments, overly euphoric with an Elektra voice that is at times already too heavy. Gabriela Georgieva performs a sonorous singing and long depressive Ariadne. Martin Iliev, serving as Siegmund and Siegfried in Sofia, gives a slowly adjusting to Ariadne Bacchus. But the pair doesn't quite fit together visually. The Naiad of Lyubov Metodieva, the Dryad of Vesela Yaneva and the Echo of Silvia Teneva make a strong vocal impression in a particularly imaginative choreography. Lesbian impulses are also recognisable, with an implicit reference to the Greek island of Lesbos, which of course is making the headlines today for completely different reasons... Nemirova's directing paw is always noticeable!

All the supporting roles are also well cast and superbly directed. Nikolay Pavlov impersonates a respectful steward who communicates in Bulgarian, as do all the others who have spoken lines. The excellent Bulgarian baritone Atanas Mladenov (otherwise performing Amfortas, Orest, Gunther and other larger roles) has to do here with the relatively small role of the music teacher, which he of course interprets excellently and with much subtle wit. Krasimir Dinev gives the dance master an unusually committed and inventive performance.

Quite outstanding is the quartet accompanying Zerbinetta, consisting of the with great ingenuity (up to a dispensable "dry mating" on the grand piano behind some plants...) Zerbinetta pursuing Iliya Iliev as Harlequin, the strong-voiced tenor Daniel Ostretsov as Scaramuccio, the bass-strong Biser Georgiev as Truffaldino and Reynaldo Droz as Brighella. Angel Antonov as the Officer, Svetozar Rangelov as the Wigmaker and Nikolay Voynov as the Lackey complete the large "Ariadne" ensemble, which once again proved what a wealth of good singers Sofia Opera has and how many of them now also sing the German field. It should be pointed out that the general director of Sofia Opera, Plamen Kartaloff, has a complete second cast at the ready, even a triple cast for Zerbinetta and Ariadne, which was to be used the following evening.

СОФИЯ - Опера и балет: АРИAДНА НА НАКСОС - Нова постановка. Освежаващ Рихард Щраус в София / Klaus Billand, Online Merker

Evan-Alexis Crist during the final applause. Photo: Klaus Billand

Evan-Alexis Christ, who with this "Ariadne" has already musically brought his second R. Strauss oeuvre to life in Sofia, after the successful "Elektra" in November 2021, was able to realize all the subtleties with the Sofia Opera Orchestra, especially the many humorous ones in the prelude, as well as the emotional outbursts. With his precise beat, he not only ensured that the musicians were perfectly in tune, but also that the actors on stage were well oriented towards the singers. One could see lively team spirit. Christ attached great importance to interpretative details and finally led the well-prepared orchestra to almost music and dramatic heights in the finale of the opera. Absolutely worth seeing and hearing! Now Sofia already has two good R. Strauss productions of international format. Will "Die Frau ohne Schatten" follow, as one occasionally hears?!

СОФИЯ - Опера и балет: АРИAДНА НА НАКСОС - Нова постановка. Освежаващ Рихард Щраус в София / Klaus Billand, Online Merker

Final applause. Photo: Setoslav Nikolov

Klaus Billand