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Richard Strauss   TFV 228, Opus 60

Ariadne auf Naxos

Opera 1912.
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Ariadne auf Naxos (Ariadne on Naxos) is an opera by Richard Strauss with a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.



The opera as originally conceived was to be a thirty-minute divertissement to be performed at the end of Hofmannsthal's adaptation of Molière's play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. As well as composing the opera, Strauss provided incidental music to be performed during the play. In the end, the opera occupied ninety minutes, and the performance of play plus opera occupied over six hours. It was first performed at the Hoftheater, Stuttgart, on 25 October 1912. The director was Max Reinhardt. The combination of the play and opera proved to be unsatisfactory to the audience: those who had come to hear the opera resented having to wait until the play finished.

The Munich premiere of the early version followed on 30 January 1913 in the old Residenztheater, a venue which was inferior for the presentation of opera, both acoustically and due to lack of space for the musicians. Hofmannsthal overruled the conductor Bruno Walter's preference for the Hofoper on the grounds that the smaller theatre was more suitable for a work of this kind. The cast included the American Maude Fay as Ariadne, Otto Wolf as Bacchus, and Hermine Bosetti as Zerbinetta. Strauss, being a native son, had a close association with Munich and was held in high regard, but had to miss the performance as he was on a concert tour in Russia. The audience openly expressed its disapproval by hissing after the first act. For the succeeding performances Walter introduced cuts and moved the production to the Hoftheater, and the attendance began to improve.[1]

Nevertheless, after these initial performances, it became apparent that the work as it stood was impractical: it required a company of actors as well as an opera company, and was thus very expensive to mount, and its length was likely to be a problem for audiences. So in 1913 Hofmannsthal proposed to Strauss that the play should be replaced by a prologue which would explain why the opera combines a serious classical story with a comedy performed by a commedia dell'arte group. He also moved the action from Paris to Vienna. Strauss was initially reluctant, but he composed the prologue (and modified some aspects of the opera) in 1916, and this revised version was first performed at the Hofoper, Vienna, on 4 October of that year. This is the version that is normally staged today, although the original play-plus-opera is occasionally performed (for example, at the 1997 Edinburgh International Festival).

The most important aria in either version is "Großmächtige Prinzessin" / "high and mighty princess". It is sung by Zerbinetta.

International performance history

The 1912 version was performed in London at Her Majesty's Theatre on 27 May 1913 with Eva von der Osten, Hermine Bosetti and Otakar Marák, conducted by Thomas Beecham. The 1916 version was first given at the Royal Opera House in the same city on 27 May 1924 with Lotte Lehmann, Maria Ivogün, Elisabeth Schumann and F Niemann, under Carl Alwin.

The United States premiere of the opera was given by the Philadelphia Civic Opera Company at the Academy of Music on 1 November 1928. Conducted by Alexander Smallens, the cast included Alma Peterson as the Primadonna/Ariadne, Charlotte Boykin as Zerbinetta, Irene Williams as the Composer, and Judson House as the Tenor/Bacchus. The opera was performed for the first time in Canada at the Montreal Festivals in 1946.


Role Voice type Stuttgart Premiere,
25 October 1912
(Conductor: Richard Strauss)
Vienna Premiere,
4 October 1916
(revised version)
(Conductor: Franz Schalk)[2]
Prologue Opera
The prima donna Ariadne soprano Maria Jeritza Maria Jeritza
The tenor Bacchus tenor Herman Jadlowker Béla von Környey
Zerbinetta coloratura soprano Margarethe Siems Selma Kurz
Harlequin, a player baritone Albin Swoboda, Jr. Hans Duhan
Scaramuccio, a player tenor Georg Maeder Hermann Gallos
Truffaldino, a player bass Reinhold Fritz Julius Betetto
Brighella, a player tenor Franz Schwerdt Adolph Nemeth
The composer soprano or mezzo-soprano Lotte Lehmann, replacing
Marie Gutheil-Schoder
His music-master baritone Hans Duhan
The dancing-master tenor Georg Maikl
A wigmaker baritone Gerhard Stehmann
A footman bass Viktor Madin
An officer tenor Anton Arnold
The Major-Domo spoken Anton August Stoll
Naiad, a nymph high soprano M. Junker-Burchardt Charlotte Dahmen
Dryad, a nymph contralto Sigrid Onégin Hermine Kittel
Echo, a nymph soprano Erna Ellmenreich Carola Jovanovic


Die schlafende Ariadne auf Naxos ("The Sleeping Ariadne in Naxos"), by John Vanderlyn.


Ariadne auf Naxos is in two parts, called the Prologue and the Opera. The first part shows the backstage circumstances leading up to the second part, which is in fact an opera within an opera.

The Prologue

At the home of 'the richest man in Vienna,' preparations for an evening of music are under way. Two groups of musicians have arrived; one is a burlesque group, led by the saucy comedienne Zerbinetta, the other an opera company, who will present a serious opera, Ariadne auf Naxos. The preparations are thrown into confusion when the Major-domo announces that both performances must take place at the same time.

At first, the impetuous young Composer refuses to discuss any changes to his opera. But when his teacher, the Music Master, counsels him to be prudent—and when Zerbinetta turns the full force of her charm on him—he drops his objections. But when he realizes what he has assented to, he is once again plunged into despair, and storms out.

The Opera

Ariadne is shown abandoned by Theseus on the island of Naxos, bewailing her fate, as she mourns her lost love and longs for death. Zerbinetta and her four companions from the burlesque group enter and attempt to cheer Ariadne by singing and dancing, but without success. In a sustained and dazzling piece of coloratura singing Zerbinetta insists that the simplest way to get over a broken heart is to find another man. In a comic interlude, each of the clowns pursues Zerbinetta.

The three nymphs, Naiad, Dryad and Echo then announce the arrival of a stranger on the island. At first Ariadne thinks he is the messenger of death; but in fact it is the god Bacchus. He falls instantly in love with Ariadne and promises to set her in the heavens as a constellation. Zerbinetta returns briefly to repeat her philosophy of love; then the opera ends with the passionate singing of Ariadne and Bacchus.


Differences between 1912 and 1916 versions

1912 version 1916 version
Opera is preceded by Der Bürger als Edelmann, Hofmannsthal's translation of Molière's Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, with incidental music by Strauss; "Du Venus' Sohn" is sung by an unnamed singer Opera is preceded by Prologue; the only music retained from Der Bürger als Edelmann is "Du Venus' Sohn" which is sung by the Composer
Jourdain interjects various spoken comments during the opera, particularly during the opening no comments are made during the opera
Grossmächtige Prinzessin: The end of "Noch glaub' ich" (before "So wär es mit Paggliazzo") continues with an instrumental repetition of the tune and ends on a B major chord "Noch glaub' ich" cuts off and ends on an A major chord
Grossmächtige Prinzessin: "So war es mit Pagliazzo" begins in E major "So war es mit Pagliazzo" begins in D major
Grossmächtige Prinzessin: "Als ein Gott kam Jeder gegangen" begins in E major "Als ein Gott kam Jeder gegangen" begins in D major
Grossmächtige Prinzessin: After the 2nd repetition of "Als ein Gott" the aria continues to develop, including a long accompanied cadenza, ending in E major The aria is cut down and ends in D major
After Zerbinetta's "Wie er feurig sich erniedert!" there is a short passage continuing the quartet for her, Brighella, Scaramuccio and Truffaldin beginning with the words "Wie der Druck den Druck erwidert" After Zerbinetta's "Wie er feurig sich erniedert!" she continues "mach ich ihn auf diese neidig"
Before Zerbinetta and Harlekin sing together in octaves "Hand und Lippe, Mund und Hand!" there is a short passage of 8 measures during which Harlekin sings "Wie der Druck den Druck erwidert!" From Zerbinetta's utterance of "Hand und Lippe" sing "ai, ai, ai, ai" and immediately goes into the duet between Zerbinetta and Harlekin
After Zerbinetta and Harlekin sing together in octaves "Hand und Lippe, Mund und Hand!" there are several pages continuing the quartet After Zerbinetta and Harlekin sing together the quartet continues
After Ariadne sings "Die deiner lange harret nimm sie dahin!" Zerbinetta has an aria "Prinzessin! Welchen Boten lohn hab ich verdient?"; Nayad, Dryad, and later Ariadne have interjections during the aria After Ariadne's "Die deiner lange harret nimm sie dahin!" she sees Thesus and cries out his name; there is no aria for Zerbinetta
After Zerbinetta's aria "Prinzessin! Welchen Boten lohn hab ich verdient?" Ariadne has a fews lines invoking her mother; thereafter follows an orchestra passage at the end of which she see Thesus and cries his name There is no corresponding passage
After the final duet between Ariadne and Bacchus, Zerbinetta returns with an aria combining motives from "Komm der neue Gott gegangen" and "So war's mit Pagliazzo und Mezzetin!"; Harlekin, Truffaldin, Brighella and Scaramuccio eventually join in The opera ends after the Ariadne-Bacchus duet with a big orchestral conclusion
At the end of the Zerbinetta and company's final number, a lackey enters and tells Jourdain that the fireworks are beginning; he reflects on what people think of him and what he sees in himself; the work ends with music associated with Jourdain There is no corresponding passage


See Ariadne auf Naxos discography.


  1. ^ Riding, Erik S.; Pechefsky, Rebecca (2001). Bruno Walter: A World Elsewhere, pp. 106–107. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300087130. Partial preview at Google Books.
  2. ^ Information from


  • Hartmann, Rudolf. Richard Strauss: The Staging of His Operas and Ballets. Oxford University Press. 1981.
  • Murray, David (1992), 'Ariadne auf Naxos' in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie (London) ISBN 0-333-73432-7
  • Holden, Amanda; (editor), with Kenyon, Nicholas and Walsh, Stephen. The Viking Opera Guide. London: Viking. ISBN 0-670-81292-7. 
  • Warrack, John and Ewan West, The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 1992, 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5

External links

  • Synopsis: Metropolitan Opera
  • Boston Public Library on Flickr. Ernst Stern. Ariadne auf Naxos : Oper in einem Aufzuge von Hugo von Hofmannsthal ; Musik von Richard Strauss, zu spielen auf dem "Bürger aus Edelmann" des Molière ; Skizzen für die Kostüme und Dekorationen. (Prints of costumes and sets for the original 1912 production).

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ariadne_auf_Naxos". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.

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