Recorded in Dresden in December 2000, this new version of Strauss's Ariadne
has become by default the last will and testament of Giuseppe Sinopoli
. On April 20, 2001, the Venetian maestro collapsed in the middle of a performance in Berlin, victim of a heart attack at age 54. Since 1992, he had been principal conductor of the prestigious Dresden Staatskapell, which undertook a privileged collaboration with Richard Strauss himself in premiering nine of the composer's operas. There's no surprise, therefore, in the excellence exhibited by the orchestra on this recording, under the baton of a man who also had much experience in the works of Strauss.
Given its final version in 1916, Ariadne auf Naxos abandons the excess of Salome and Electra, orienting itself toward neoclassicism in its juxtaposition of the world of antique opera seria with that of the commedia dell'arte. The Prologue--with its theater within the theater setup--is a playful treatment of the theme of art versus reality and of sublime love versus frivolity, represented by the opposition between a young composer (Anne Sofie von Otter) and a saucy comedian, Zerbinetta (Natalie Dessay). The cast assembled here is exemplary and basically not to be surpassed today, with Deborah Voigt in her famous turn as the title character and Ben Heppner as Bacchus. --Franck Erikson