"Ariadne Auf Naxos" is Richard Strauss' scintillating foray into the world of neo-classicism. The brilliant innovations of "Salome" and "Elektra" were history, and here, Strauss luxuriated in the beauty of sound as an end in itself. Employing a chamber orchestra of 36 pieces with all the fluency of an master, he, and his librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, conjure a delightful two-part opera consisting of a Prologue, which is mostly sung in recitative, and a full-scale operetta boasting some of the most delectable melodies and set-pieces to be found in all opera. Jessye Norman is wonderful as the forlorn and abandoned Ariadne. Kathleen Battle is superb as Zerbinetta, tackling "Grossmachtige Prinzessin" - a virtuoso aria that is to the coloratura soprano what Rachmaninoff's 3rd piano concerto is to the pianist - with a deceptively cavalier aplomb and grace. The rest of the MET cast is a delight. The sets are simple and straightforward, as befits this "play within a play." I watched this performance twice at one sitting, and have to admit getting teary-eyed at the end as Bacchus and Ariadne resolutely face the future, secure in their new love. Strauss' glorious music was never more endearing: pair it with the professionals at the MET and you have an exquisite evening's entertainment. Richard Strauss is sometimes criticized as difficult or too modern: "Der Rosenkavalier" aside, this opera, and subsequent masterpieces such as, "Capriccio," belie such accusations. Strauss, as in this opera, could write music of surpassing mellifluousness. This is a wonderful performance of an enchanting opera.