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BY RICHARD STRAUSS
LIBRETTO BY HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHAL
JONATHAN DARLINGTON, CONDUCTOR
NANCY HERMISTON, DIRECTOR
MEMBERS OF VANCOUVER OPERA ORCHESTRA
Originally intended as a divertissement to be performed in 1912 after a production of Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Strauss ended up composing a 90-minute work.
Since this required both a company of actors and singers and ran over 6 hours, in 1916 von Hofmannsthal suggested composing a sung prologue instead of mounting the play and this is the version which is regularly performed today. It is a work which examines the role of Art in society, with a Prologue showing the backstage antics and preparations for the “opera within an opera” which comprises the second part.
A rich patron has commissioned a new opera from a brilliant young composer based on the Greek myth of Ariadne and has invited his friends to dinner for the premiere. No one has told the composer that his work will be followed by a comedy sketch performed by an Italian commedia dell’arte troupe and the evening will end with an impressive fireworks display. When dinner runs late and the patron decrees that both the opera and the comedy sketch must be performed simultaneously we see the backstage mayhem that this involves.
The performance begins – Ariadne and the nymphs are abandoned on Naxos. In the midst of their despair who is there to cheer them up but Zerbinetta and her clown friends, Harlekin, Brighella, Scaramuccio and Truffaldino.
When the God Bacchus arrives, love transforms everyone…