Ariadne auf Naxos, Opera National de Bordeaux, 2011
Ariadne auf Naxos, Opera National de Bordeaux, 2011

Marsha Ginsberg, Set Design
Doey Luethi, Costume Design
Christopher Akerlind, Lighting Design
Peter Littlefield, Dramaturg
Photo Credit: Marsha Ginsberg

“Mythical thought always progresses from the awareness of oppositions toward their resolution" Claude Levi-Strauss

ARIADNE AUF NAXOS is an opera filled with radical choices, and organized by a principle of contrast that embraces the unexpected. Two extraordinary yet apparently opposite kinds of women, Ariadne and Zerbinetta, achieve a kind of synthesis that is due to the intervention of a trickster, the Bourgeois Gentilhomme. His radical act, that of forcing them to inhabit the same opera, both creates and resolves conflict. Ariadne is a woman who rejects the present, and who obsessed with the past, comes to terms with her life by meditating on the acceptance of death. Living for the present and equipped with the means to constantly adapt to and participate in it, Zerbinetta adores life, and embraces whatever new situation she may find herself in, even when a slave to it. Only a fool would expect the composer of the dramatic opera ARIADNE AUF NAXOS to be able to incorporate Zerbinetta and her burlesque act into his premiere performance at the last minute, and yet the apparently misguided change that the Bourgeois Gentilhomme imposes, points to the question that is at the opera’s core: is it better to live in the world, or to reject it? Strauss and Hoffmannthal’s answer seems to be that the solution lies somewhere in between. The collision of two seemingly diametric opposites that takes place in their chaotic prologue, resolves brilliantly in the opera itself as a kind of collage rather than a rejection of either force: a collage that fuels a transformation of both forces, and that results in the union of the two.