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A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

A Singer’s Notes 90: Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos at Glimmerglass

L to R: Carlton Ford as Harlequin, Brian Ross Yeakley as Brighella, Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta, Gerard Michael D'Emilio as Truffaldino, Andrew Penning as Scaramuccio and Wynn Harmon as Manager of the Estate in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2014 production of Strauss' "Ariadne in Naxos." Photo Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.
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Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta and Catherine Martin as Composer in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2014 production of Strauss' "Ariadne in Naxos." Photo Jessica Kray/The Glimmerglass Festival.
Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta and Catherine Martin as Composer in The Glimmerglass Festival’s 2014 production of Strauss’ “Ariadne in Naxos.” Photo Jessica Kray/The Glimmerglass Festival.

Director Francesca Zambello’s Ariadne in Naxos at Glimmerglass was a saucy and well-thought out production of one of Richard Strauss’s most difficult operas. Just shoe-horning the English translation into Strauss’s very specifically shaped German lines was a remarkable accomplishment. The rustic home-spun setting of the Prologue worked remarkably well as an analogue to the simply staged apotheosis. At first I thought that it wouldn’t, but it did. The house at Glimmerglass is a kind of barn, so stage and rustic set had a unity. Rachele Gilmore was the most complete Zerbinetta I have heard in the theatre. A true and moving voice was what she had, not just a facile one. She got across the loneliness of the character sharply. She did not flounce; she was lively, never obnoxious. The part seemed truer than I have found it before.

The final scene with very good singers in Christine Goerke’s Ariadne and Corey Bix’ Bacchus still came across like a lengthy song contest. The singing was powerful and detailed. The difficulty was in the orchestra. Kathleen Kelly was a clear and generous conductor, but a great deal of the opera proper is chamber music. It was not badly played, but it was not sweetly played. The final scene is an apotheosis, a transformation, not just a love duet. If the playing had been more subtle, this gradus ad Parnassum would have worked better. It must seem to progress, to enlarge. Most of it is not loud.

I heard a beautiful voice from Jacqueline Echols, soprano, singing the part of Echo. In her few solo lines there was a distinct and fetching sound. I must hear her again.

L to R: Carlton Ford as Harlequin, Brian Ross Yeakley as Brighella, Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta, Gerard Michael D'Emilio as Truffaldino, Andrew Penning as Scaramuccio and Wynn Harmon as Manager of the Estate in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2014 production of Strauss' "Ariadne in Naxos." Photo Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.
L to R: Carlton Ford as Harlequin, Brian Ross Yeakley as Brighella, Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta, Gerard Michael D’Emilio as Truffaldino, Andrew Penning as Scaramuccio and Wynn Harmon as Manager of the Estate in The Glimmerglass Festival’s 2014 production of Strauss’ “Ariadne in Naxos.” Photo Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.

Usually when I come to Glimmerglass I am wondering why its peer companies like St. Louis and Glyndebourne are able to manage a very fine orchestra, and how they do it. The singing at Glimmerglass deserves this. I say this not to detract, but to encourage. Ariadne auf Naxos is one of the most detailed and player-specific operas in the canon. There are nearly as many soloists in the orchestra pit as there are on the stage, and they have to really sing.

For a different view, click here for Seth Lachterman’s review in New York Arts.

About Keith Kibler

Twice a Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center, Keith Kibler’s doctorate was earned at Yale University and the Eastman School of Music. He is one of the region’s most sought after teachers with students accepted at the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School, Peabody and Hartt Conservatories, the Tanglewood Institute, and the Aspen Music School. Keith Kibler is an adjunct teacher of singing at Williams College.

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