Solid & subtle direction in WTO's Ariadne auf NaxosReview
On Friday, July 19, Wolf Trap Opera opened their second opera of their summer season with Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. An opera within an opera is always a difficult feat in my opinion, and the creative team made it an entertaining and comical evening.
The costumes by Rooth Varland were colorful and well crafted. The Prima Donna/Ariadne, played by Alexandria Shiner dressed in a fur lined dress and hat, as well as green face mask. In the opera she was dressed in a gorgeous blue flowing dress. Ms. Shiner impressed the house with a huge soprano voice. Seriously, the Bayreuth Festival is in her future.
Zerbinetta, sung by Alexandra Nowakowski had a detailed red corseted dress with a bonnet. The costume more than adequately reflected Ms. Nowakowski’s vocal radiance and stage presence.
Lindsay Kate Brown sang the highly melodramatic role of the Composer with comic timing and true feeling. It is an old saying that there is no comedy without tragedy and drama, and Strauss’s opera certainly lives up to that. Thankfully the direction by Tara Faircloth provided a large dose of slapstick humor, but knew when to back off and let the vocal line and text speak for itself.
The short first act was jam-packed with hilarious chaos. In contrast the second act was calm and collected with the little humorous vignettes contained on the wings of the stage. The second half of this opera can be particularly boring, with not much context for the characters, but the creative team gave inspiration to the singers.
Echo (sung by Ashley Robillard is a character that has perplexing lack of background. Ms. Faircloth crafted a narrative that Echo is a great admirer of the Prima Donna/Ariadne, and Echo is seen fawning over her onstage. In the wings she is seen flirting with one of Zerbinetta’s clowns, or shaking out the jitters before she enters the stage. This is just one example of the high level of characterization that each singer in the company put into their performance. This attention to detail of the “real people” onstage highlighted and framed the drama of the Greek gods, adding more humanity to the superhuman story the Composer wrote.
Another common theme of the night was every single players ability to move/dance on stage. Zerbinetta’s clowns had ample chance to do choreographed dances, but overall it was impressed upon me how crucial and effective the latest trend of including stage movement/dance in Young Artist training programs are. As well as the straight acting training these Young Artists receive. Conor McDonald made a speaking cameo as the Major Domo, once again gracing the Barns with his impressive acting and comic skills.