Ariadne Auf Naxos by the Minnesota Opera performing at the Ordway

Ariadne Auf Naxos. The lousy photo is by John Olive.

Ariadne Auf Naxos. The lousy photo is by John Olive.

We (my lovely wife Mary; my lovely colleague Janet Preus; Janet’s handsome SO Tim; and yours truly) attended the “Social Media Preview Night” last night of Minnesota Opera‘s upcoming production of Richard Strauss‘s intense and turgid and tuneful Ariadne Auf Naxos. HWTS is a blog, after all. Social Media. Hence this less-than-intelligent review.

What can I say? First of all, this was a preview, two nights before they actually sell tickets. Second of all, many of the singers were “marking,” i.e., singing at 50% (or less). (“So-and-so seemed weak.” “Idiot, he was ‘marking’.” “Oh.”) Third of all, what do I know about opera?

I can say this: Ariadne Auf Naxos‘s librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal does not have a great deal to say, and he says it at some considerable length.

However, fear not: the singers, especially in the (long) second act, fly. Amber Wagner as Ariadne, Brian Jagde as Bacchus, Hanna Hipp as the Composer serve up world-class performances and if you are an opera lover, they will, I promise, make you happy indeed. Also beyond-brilliant is Erin Morley as Zerbinetta. At least I think I saw Erin Morley. She shares the role with Jeni Houser and last night I might have seen Ms. H. My stupidity (and the lack of a program) renders me uncertain.

So: Ariadne Auf Naxos is recommended – for opera lovers.

~ John Olive


Yes, John, I agree with all of what you said, but of course I can add a few words. There was enough full-voice singing to know that Amber Wagner can blow the roof off, if she so chooses, and do so beautifully. None of this ratcheted-up booming for her – oh, no! Just full, rich luscious music. From a singing standpoint, she is perfectly cast.

As is Erin Morley. In the mood for some flashy, sparkly coloratura? Is there another way to pull off the role of Zerbinetta? Morley dashes off runs and arpeggios and pins those crazy high notes – sometimes while lounging atop the piano.

Jagde also gives us a larger than life Bacchus with his huge voice and bold style. These three roles take true “Olympians,” as the company’s Head of Music, Rob Ainsley, called them in his pre-rehearsal talk to guest observers.

The Composer, played by Hannah Hipp in her U.S. debut, propels the first act and sets us up for the (somewhat ridiculously premised) second act: a combined performance of “Ariadne auf Naxos” and whatever the commedia dell’arte troupe improvises along with it. Never mind. It’s all an excuse for grand music and virtuoso performances – one of which is Hipp’s. She was exquisite in this role!

Less exquisite are the visual elements and stage direction, but let’s see what happens between now and opening. Two days is a long time in a production schedule.

~ Janet Preus

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