Thursday, March 13, 2003

[3/13/2011] Special: Remembering Margaret Price, Part 6 -- as Richard Strauss's "Ariadne" (continued)


Harlekin tries to cheer up the inconsolable Ariadne. Unfortunately, her desolation is so complete that it wouldn't work even if he were to sing a whole lot better than this.


. . . only the beginning of the opera seria, the opera-within-an-opera. (We actually heard both "openings" of the revised Ariadne in the post "15 (well, actually 16) ways to start an opera, courtesy of Richard Strauss.")

R. STRAUSS: Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60:
Overture to the opera seria Ariadne auf Naxos

Orchestra of the Opéra National de Lyon, Kent Nagano, cond. Virgin Classics, recorded April-May 1994

What we have here, in both versions of Ariadne, is a delirious concatenation created by the whim of the filthy-rich patron (Monsieur Jourdain from Moliès Le bourgeois gentilhomme in the original; "the richest man in Vienna" in the Prologue added for the revised version) who has paid for both entertainments and then at the last minute decided to have them combined, so that the infinitely serious opera seria telling the story of the princess Ariadne wasting away on the island of Naxos after her abandonment by Theseus is, well, invaded by a quartet of commedia dell'arte players and their infinitely alluring and flirtatious partner, Zerbinetta. (Note that, while the recording we're drawing on is the first commercial recording of the original version, the portion of the opera we're listening to was, as far as I know, left unchanged in the revision.)

The stage direction says: "Ariadne in front of the cave on the ground, motionless. Najade at left. Dryade at right. Echo at the back against the wall of the grotto."

We're going to cheat here and splice in the first part of the scene from other recordings, for the sake of, among other things, better nymphs. (Better Nymphs -- that ought to be a good name for something.) With the extra time made possible by my assorted technical problems on this post (I know these posts look like they're slapped together in 10 or 15 minutes, and they may not be worth more effort than that, but that's not the reality, alas), I've turned to the LP issues of my two favorite Ariadne recordings. Since I was making my own dubs, I started back at the Overture to the opera seria and continued through Ariadne's awakening "Ach!" (and of course Echo's echoing "Ach!").

Ariadne auf Naxos: Overture to the opera seria . . . Najade and Dryade, "Schläft sie?"
NAJADE: Is she sleeping?
DRYADE: Is she sleeping?
NAJADE: No, she's weeping.
DRYADE: Weeping in her sleep. She's moaning.
NAJADE: She's weeping.
DRYADE: Weeping in her sleep.
NAJADE and DRYADE: Ah, she's always like this.
NAJADE: Day after day in benumbed sorrow.
DRYADE: Ever-fresh bitter laments.
NAJADE: Fresh spasms and shivering fever,
ever-fresh bitter complaints,
DRYADE [overlapping]: A heart wounded forever, forever --
ECHO [overlapping]: Forever, forever, inconsolable.
ALL THREE: Ah, we're used to it now.
Like the waves gently rocking,
like the leaves, lightly tossing,
it flows away above us.
Her tears, her laments,
ah, for many a day
we have scarce paid heed to them.
Like the waves gently rocking &c.
ARIADNE [on the ground]: Ah!
Mimi Coertse (s), Najade; Hilde Rössl-Majdan (ms), Dryade; Liselotte Maikl (s), Echo; Leonie Rysanek (s), Ariadne; Vienna Philharmonic, Erich Leinsdorf, cond. RCA/Decca, recorded 1958
Erika Wustmann (s), Najade; Annelies Burmeister (ms), Dryade; Adele Stolte (s), Echo; Gundula Janowitz (s), Ariadne; Staatskapelle Dresden, Rudolf Kempe, cond. EMI, recorded 1967


Ariadne auf Naxos: Ariadne, "Ach! Wo war ich? Tot?"
ECHO: Ach!
ARIADNE: Where was I? Dead? And alive,
alive again and still living?
And yet it is no life that I live!
Shattered heart, will you forever keep on beating?
[Half raising herself] What then did I dream?
Woe is me! Already forgotten!
My head retains nothing anymore.
Only shadows slip
throw a shadow.
And yet, something suddenly blazes up and pains me so!
HARLEKIN [from the wings]: How young and fair and infinitely sad!
ZERBINETTA [from the wings]: In face like a child,
but how dark-ringed her eyes!
HARLEKIN and TRUFFALDIN: And very, very difficult to console, I fear.
Margaret Price (s), Ariadne; Virginie Pochon (s), Echo; Thomas Mohr (b), Harlekin; Sumi Jo (s), Zerbinetta; Alfred Kuhn (b), Truffaldin; Orchestra of the Opéra National de Lyon, Kent Nagaon, cond. Virgin Classics, recorded April-May 1994


It's actually a double monologue, separated by some community participation from the assorted other players on Ariadne's "deserted" island.

Ariadne auf Naxos: Ariadne, "Ein schönes war" . . .
Zerbinetta, "Ach, so versuchet doch ein kleines Lied" . . .
Ariadne, "Es gibt ein Reich"

ARIADNE [without taking any notice of them; talking to herself, as in a monologue]:
There was a thing of beauty called "Theseus-Ariadne,"
that walked in light and rejoiced in life.
Why do I know of it? I want to forget!
[Another idea occurs to her poor deranged mind.]
This one thing I have still to find: It is shameful
to be as confused as I am!
I must try to rouse myself. Yes, this I still must find:
the maiden that once I used to be!
Now I have it -- the gods grant that I hold on to it!
Not the name -- the name has grown together
with another name, one thing grows
so easily into another, alas!
NAJADE, DRYADE, ECHO [trying to awaken her]: Ariadne!
ARIADNE [motioning them away]:
No, not again! She lives here quite alone.
Lightly she breathes, lightly she moves,
not a blade stirs where she treads,
her sleep is chaste, her mind serene,
her heart as pure as a spring;
she keeps herself undefiled, for the day is soon to come
when she can wind herself in her mantle,
cover her face with a cloth
and lie there,
among the dead.
HARLEKIN [from the wings]: I'm afraid that great sorrow has unhinged her mind.
ZERBINETTA [from the wings]: Let's try some music.
SCARAMUCCIO and TRUFFALDIN [from the wings]: No doubt, she has gone mad.
ARIADNE [without turning her head, to herself, as if she had heard the last words in her dream]: Mad, but wise, yes! I know what is good,
when one can keep it far from one's poor heart.
ZERBINETTA [from the wings]: Oh then, try a little song!
HARLEKIN [singing from the wings]: Love and hatred, hope and fear,
evlery joy and every pain,
all this can the heart endure
once and many times again.
[ECHO repeats it soullessly, like a bird, without words.]
But to feel not joy nor sadness,
even pain itself being dead,
that is fatal to your heart,
this you must not do for me!
You must lift yourself from darkness,
were it but to fresher pangs!
You must live, for life is lovely,
you must live again once more.
[ECHO, as before. ARIADNE, unmoved, dreams on to herself.]
ZERBINETTA [in half-voice]: She didn't raise her head once!
HARLEKIN [the same]: It's all no use.
I felt as much while I was singing.
[ECHO again repeats the melody.]
ZERBINETTA: You're quite upset.
HARLEKIN: Never have I been so moved by any human being.
ZERBINETTA: You're the same about every woman.
HARLEKIN: And aren't you the same about every man?

ARIADNE [to herself]: There is a realm where all is pure;
it has a name too: Realm of Death.
[Rises from the ground.]
Here nothing is pure!
All is finished here.
[She pulls her robe close around her.]
But soon a messenger will draw nigh,
they call him Hermes.
With his staff
he rules all souls;
like bird on the wing,
like dry leaves,
he drives them before him.
O beautiful, serene god! See! Ariadne awaits you!

Oh, my heart must be cleansed
of all wild grief.
Then your presence will call me,
your hand will touch my heart.
In the beautiful festal robes,
which my mother bequeathed me,
my body will remain,
the silent cave will be my tomb.
But mutely my soul
will follow its new lord,
as a light leaf in the wind
flutters downward, gladly falling.

Darkness will cover my eyes
and fill my heart,
this body will remain,
richly adorned and all alone.

You will set me free,
give me to myself,
this burdensome life,
take it from me.
I will lose myself entirely in you,
with you Ariadne will abide.
Margaret Price (s), Ariadne; Brigitte Fournier (s), Najade; Doris Lamprecht (ms), Dryade; Virginie Pochon (s), Echo; Thomas Mohr (b), Harlekin; Sumi Jo (s), Zerbinetta; Steven Cole (t), Scaramuccio; Alfred Kuhn (bs), Truffaldin; Orchestra of the Opéra National de Lyon, Kent Nagano, cond. Virgin Classics, recorded April-May 1994


One of the clearest reflections of Price's gravitation to a heavier-weight repertory was her increasing performance of Verdi roles, so we'll be sampling her Amelia in Ballo and Desdemona in Otello and perhaps one or two others. And we still have to at least sample the song repertory that was so important to her.

Not next week, but we'll come back to this.


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