The last performance has passed.

Click here to see the current season’s productions.

”World class.” Dagens Nyheter

Ariadne auf Naxos

A (reluctant) combination of humour and solemnity.

Opera in two acts by Richard Strauss (1864-1949). Libretto Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

Sung in German with both Swedish and English surtitles.

The premiere will be broadcast live on Swedish National Radio.

Trailer
”Sofie Asplund is completely dazzling as Zerbinetta.”Aftonbladet
”Annalena Persson makes a splendid interpretation of the abandoned Ariadne.”Göteborgs-Posten
”The ensemble is top class, down to the smallest side role.”Dagens Nyheter
”The orchestra glimmers in all its glory under Patrik Ringborg”Dagens Nyheter
”It’s not over the top to call this world class!”Dagens Nyheter
“One of the most memorable and beautiful opera productions I have ever seen”Seen and Heard International

Fervent passions, exuberant humour and the contrasting aspects of art are the main elements of Strauss’ imaginative opera. Ariadne auf Naxos is a playful, ingenious piece of theatre that brings the conflict between high art and popular culture to a head. A seriously entertaining battle between tragedy and comedy.

A wealthy man wants to impress his guests with both a newly written opera about the ancient tale of Ariadne, and a light-hearted acrobatic farce. Unfortunately, in order to have time for both performances, and to the artists’ dismay, they must improvise and play both at the same time. Meanwhile behind the scenes, a wonderful drama is being played out as the Maria Callas-inspired prima donna is forced to share the stage with the comedy players’ tempestuous Zerbinetta, and the serious composer watches his creation being hacked to pieces by slapstick numbers. But as highbrow art fuses with popular culture, a new story emerges. A reality in which the main characters overcome their misgivings, find new love and regain their vitality.

Director Rodula Gaitanou gives Ariadne auf Naxos the feel of a 1950s Fellini film studio, replete with film stars, jesters and painted matte backdrops. The first act takes place backstage on the film set, and in the second act we see the film shoot itself.

The Göteborg Opera’s dramatic soprano Annalena Persson breathes life into Strauss' wonderful melodic phrases as the unhappy Ariadne, while the internationally sought-after tenor Daniel Frank makes his Gothenburg debut as Bacchus. We are delighted to welcome back Sofie Asplund as the jovial Zerbinetta. Patrik Ringborg, conductor in high international demand, will return to the podium. At the Göteborg Opera, he has previously conducted Richard Strauss’ Salome and the first performance of Notorious by Hans Gefors.


Ariadne auf Naxos is a co-production with Opera North from the UK.

Interview with director Rodula Gaitanou

Listen to the panel discussion about Ariadne auf Naxos:
”When artistic ideals meet reality”

On the panel: Annalena Persson (Ariadne), Sofie Asplund (Zerbinetta), Ann-Kristin Jones (The Composer), Rodula Gaitanou (director), Patrik Ringborg (conductor), George Souglides (set designer), Simon Corder (lighting designer), Victoria Newlyn (choreographer) and the invited guest, composer Paula af Malmborg. Chairing the panel: Göran Gademan (dramaturge). 

Musical excerpts from the opera. The discussion is in English.
Recorded Tuesday 23 January, 7pm, the Small Stage.

One week before opera premieres we hold free panel discussions. At these discussions the artistic team and soloists talk about their work. Learn more about our panel discussions.

From tension and a fiasco to a successful masterpiece

Article by Göran Gademan, dramaturge

Ariadne auf Naxos was the third opera created by composer Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, first performed in 1912 in Stuttgart. The project was planned in two parts: first, a performance of Molière’s play Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (The Bourgeois Gentleman), adapted by Hofmannsthal. The second part would be the operatic performance, in which the eponymous would-be aristocrat Jourdain entertains his noble guests. This opera would be based on the Greek myth of Ariadne on Naxos, where Ariadne been abandoned by Theseus but instead ends up in the arms of the god Bacchus. 

It would not be a stretch of the imagination to say that the composer is a portrait of the precociously gifted Hofmannsthal, while the crass music teacher shares certain traits with Strauss himself.

Richard Strauss (1864-1949)

It was, of course, problematic to form both a speaking and operatic ensemble, while a further predicament arose during the premiere, as those in the audience who were interested in the play were indifferent to the opera, and vice versa. The whole project caused such friction between Strauss and Hofmannsthal, it looked as if it would be their last collaboration. But after the fiasco in Stuttgart, they withdrew the piece and attempted to refine it. They did away with The Bourgeois Gentleman and created an almost entirely new composition for the first part. The focus now lay on the preparations for the performance, as well as discussions about art and the conditions which weigh in the artist. This new première took place at the Vienna Court Opera in 1916. 

The premiere of this new version of Ariadne auf Naxos was markedly more successful, and since then it has always been this one that is performed. In the text to the new first section, the reasons are also elucidated as to why a commedia dell'arte troupe is involved in the tragic opera about Ariadne: for reasons of expediency, the wealthy gentleman has decided that the two ensembles which he has engaged must perform at the same time, so that his guests will have time to view a fireworks display afterwards. The young composer is shocked by this blasphemy and intends to withdraw his work. Part of what makes him reverse this decision is an erotically charged encounter with the shining light of the commedia dell'arte troupe, Zerbinetta. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to say that the composer is a portrait of the precociously gifted Hofmannsthal, while the crass music teacher shares certain traits with Strauss himself. 

It has remained a regular number in many opera houses’ repertoires and allows for innumerable new interpretations thanks to its theatrical playfulness and the conflict between high culture and popular culture.
Maria Jeritza as Ariadne in Vienna, 1916

In the opera part, the robust Zerbinetta as presented as the counterpart to the tragic Ariadne, and together with her juggler colleagues thinks nothing of how Ariadne’s soul would be transformed during the meeting with Bacchus – for her it's simply a matter of exchanging one lover for another. The tragic Ariadne is accompanied in the opera part by organ and is surrounded by three singing nymphs who pass comment on her suffering in long, intricate vocal loops.

It is the mixture between the two genres that is the foundation of Ariadne auf Naxos’ charm. Where the two meet, Strauss has found an irresistible form, where they are both reinforced and relieved by each other. It has remained a regular number in many opera houses’ repertoires and allows for innumerable new interpretations thanks to its theatrical playfulness and the conflict between high culture and popular culture. These are the elements that have gripped the attention of director Rodula Gaitanou and production designer George Souglides, but the setting has been moved to Fellini’s film studio Cinnicità in Rome towards the end of the 1950s. There, the play unfolds, where the prima donna (Ariadne) sharing noticeable characteristics with Maria Callas, while Zerbinetta calls to mind a Sophia Loren or Gina Lollobrigida. The opera part then shows the finished result – a film that, for budgetary reasons, ends up as a merger of two different casts. 

#GOariadne

Contact us

Christina Nilssons Gata, 411 04 Göteborg
Telephone (switch) 031–10 80 00
Ticket office & Restaurant 031–13 13 00

Follow us:

GöteborgsOperan – a part of En del av Västra Götalandsregionen