Ariadne auf Naxos at Opera Holland Park
As the thunderstorm roared and the rain fell on the canvas roof, Opera Holland Park’s Ariadne got off to a slow and uncertain start. The prologue and particularly The Party Planner of Eleanor Bron were most difficult to hear, that is until the entrance and the ecstasy of The Composer sung by the Swedish soprano, Julia Sporsen. She was a revelation with flawless delivery and a performance that tugged at the heartstrings, particularly when confronting her relationship with the Zerbinetta of Jennifer France.
The Opera Company and Burlesque Group parked their trailers outside the stately home – for some reason the action had moved to the stately home of the richest man in Glasgow! The Director and Designer, Antony McDonald, gave us a somewhat economical production without the razzamatazz that is sometimes seen elsewhere. However, the costumes worked well and provided some real colour. The Glasgow feel – this is a coproduction with Scottish Opera – did not follow into the second half, which was based in Naxos where the dour and depressed Ariadne is only prevented from dying by the love shown from her saviour, Bacchus.
Ariadne was sung by the American soprano, Mardi Byers. She only sparkled in her duet with the rather pinched heldentenor voice of the Dutchman, Kor-Jan Dusseljee. Jennifer France’s Zerbinetta is always lively and at times outrageous fun, particularly on her swing above the stage. Her vocal fireworks in the second half were outstanding.
The four Burlesque male roles led by the Harlequin of Alex Otterburn were part of a great supporting cast, which included the three best coordinated Nymphs that I have seen for a long time. The Professor of Composition, Stephen Gadd, added great elegance to the evening.
The Conductor, Brad Cohen, who is currently Artistic Director of Western Australia Opera, pushed the score along with great skill, focus and drive. He obtained some expressive playing from the City of London Sinfonia, although there was the odd brass twitch during the evening.
Opera Holland Park has been blessed with a wonderful summer of weather and opera and Ariadne auf Naxos, although not perfect, did not disappoint.